Elizabeth Louth: 09.08.1929 to 10.09.2009.
Article Type: Interview
Subject: Occupational therapists (Interviews)
Occupational therapy (Personalities)
Authors: Farley, Thelma
Kinebanian, Astrid
Ilott, Irene
Richards, Sheelagh
Croft, Jean
Pub Date: 01/01/2010
Publication: Name: British Journal of Occupational Therapy Publisher: College of Occupational Therapists Ltd. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 College of Occupational Therapists Ltd. ISSN: 0308-0226
Issue: Date: Jan, 2010 Source Volume: 73 Source Issue: 1
Persons: Biographee: Louth, Elizabeth
Accession Number: 217425150
Full Text: Mrs Elizabeth Louth was a pioneer of occupational therapy in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. As Miss Elizabeth Lee, she was one of the first students (Course 6, 1948-1951) to qualify from the Liverpool School of Occupational Therapy in Huyton. She may have heard about occupational therapy from her parents. Her father, Dr R W Lee, was a general practitioner and her mother was a nurse. For over 40 years, she served the profession with pride, resolute in her commitment to independent living and the therapeutic value of activities.

Elizabeth was a natural leader. This was apparent when she was head girl at the Ackworth School, a Quaker School in her home county of Yorkshire. The headmistress described Elizabeth as most successful in this role, having an easy way of managing people, courage, common sense and initiative. These skills were honed as she strove to establish and develop occupational therapy wherever she worked.

In 1954, she was asked by the Red Cross to go over to the Netherlands to help to set up an occupational therapy department in the first Rehabilitation Centre for civilians, 'De Hoogstraat', near Utrecht. Here, Elizabeth persuaded the doctors to import the most advanced upper limb prostheses from Germany, a considerable achievement in the postwar era. Such proactivity and persistence was typical: Elizabeth always put patients' needs first. She was determined to do her very best for the profession she loved. It is noteworthy that the Rehabilitation Centre 'De Hoogstraat' is now one of the largest occupational therapy departments in the Netherlands.


Much of Elizabeth's life was spent in Lincolnshire and Rutland. Mrs Louth, as she was known, was Head Occupational Therapist at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, between 1979 and 1993. During this period, she led the profession as District Head Occupational Therapist for Lincolnshire Area Health Authority, overseeing new community services for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems across the county. Mrs Louth was valued as a supportive, perceptive and politically astute manager.

She was a great advocate for Lincolnshire as a place to live and work. As a farmer's wife (Ray, her late husband, was a dairy farmer in the hamlet of Toft), she understood the occupational needs of remote, rural communities. Elizabeth served her local community in many ways: as a Governor at a school for children with special needs; as a volunteer running Red Cross shops in Bourne and Stamford; and she attended a Buckingham Palace garden party in recognition of her contribution as a founder member of, and speaker for, the Women's Institute.

Elizabeth was always generous, giving of herself in practical ways. She was a hands-on therapist, wearing her green and white uniform with pride. Elizabeth took a keen interest in patients, staff, their families and pets (especially cats), showing great kindness. Thelma Farley recalls one such instance: 'Not long after I moved to Bourne, my three small sons and I caught mumps, and my husband was away for work. The boys were recovering, but I was quite poorly when Liz called at my home. She quickly saw the pickle we were in, and without any fuss, she fed the boys, made me comfortable, stripped and made the beds, and left us in a much healthier state. I shall always remember and be grateful for this kindness, and know there are many others who share this gratitude for her many acts of support and kindness.' Her sense of fun and lively humour is remembered by Sheelagh Richards, another former Lincolnshire colleague and longstanding friend. Sheelagh says, 'Liz was much loved and much admired, and always wonderful company--I will remember her with great affection.'

Mrs Elizabeth Louth was a modest lady. We suspect that she would be very surprised by this obituary, as she read the journal up until her death. She may even regard it as 'fuss and frills', in the words of Jean Croft, her friend of 50 years. However, we wanted to celebrate Elizabeth's life and work. She was, and continues to be, an inspiration.

Thelma Farley, Astrid Kinebanian, Irene Ilott, Sheelagh Richards, Jean Croft and other friends and colleagues.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.