Remembering Anita Roddick, a year after her hasty departure

September 10 marked a year since Anita Roddick left us in hurry, with so much unfinished business.

At the end of our last encounter in the summer of 2003, she autographed for me a copy of her latest book with these words: “Remember me!”.

She remains one of the most remarkable people I have met. Especially in the past year, which has been eventful and tumultuous for me, I have often thought of Anita’s long and colourful journey from working class mom to one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time….and onward to become an outspoken and passionate activist for social justice, human rights and the environment.

As she has written, it was not an easy ride to do well in the male-dominated world of business, nor was it any easier to do good in the greed-dominated world at large. But she not only did it, but had great fun doing so.

What would Anita do? I find myself asking this question every now and then when I seem to be struggling against enormous odds (which is increasingly often). I don’t always find the answers I’m looking for, but it’s always a useful reflection.

I now find that others have been asking this question. Visiting Anita Roddick’s official website this week, I read a moving post by Brooke Shelby Biggs, who worked with Anita for 8 years. She writes:
“I’ve lived most of this past year having conversations with Anita in my mind. What would she say when I told her about considering a move back to magazine journalism? How should I handle my role in the Free the Angola 3 movement? How would she get on with my new romantic interest? Should I move back to my parents’ home town to help care for my ailing mother? I’ve tried to spend this time living according to the philosophy of What Would Anita Do (WWAD?). It was a lot easier when I could ask her myself. But some part of me knows she gave me a lot of tools to figure the hard stuff out on my own. Sometimes I just wish I had her courage.”

website inspired by Anita Roddick

I am an activist: website inspired by Anita Roddick

Brooke links to a website called I am an Activist that draws information and inspiration from Anita’s many and varied struggles in support of various local and global causes. Prominently displayed on the home page are Anita’s now famous words: “This is no dress rehearsal. You’ve got one life, so just lead it and try and be remarkable.”

Well, we can honestly say that she’s one person who practised what she preached.

‘I am an Activist’ is also the sub-title of a DVD that celebrates the life of Dame Anita Roddick, which is available for sale and/or download from Anita It compiles footage gathered on 23 October 2007, when thousands of thinkers, artists, activists, and other heroic saboteurs of the status quo gathered to celebrate the remarkable life and legacy of Anita Roddick. According to the blurb, it features key people from groups like Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Reprieve, The Body Shop, as well as family and close friends, as they laugh and cry and ultimately take to the streets to launch.

Anita’s daughter Sam is quoted as saying in her tribute: “My mother treated life like each day was her last, and this gave her the permission for incredible bravery. … Tonight I am personally pledging that I Am An Activist, and within that, I also will have a lot of fun, and I also will be silly. I will not be polite and I will never, ever, ask for permission.”

In the weeks and months since Anita’s death, more video material featuring her public talks and interviews have been shared on YouTube by individuals and organisations. I have this week watched several of them, and felt there still isn’t sufficiently good moving images about her. In her time she must have done hundreds or thousands of interviews for broadcast television, corporate audiences as well as community groups. At least some of these must have been recorded and archived. But we still don’t see enough out there, at least in easily accessible public video platforms like YouTube.

Here are two that I did find which are interesting:

Anita speaks on the lessons she learnt from running her own home business, which she started in 1976 to augment her family income. She talks about how she had absolutely no business training, faced many odds and put up with male sarcasm:

From University of California Television comes this video of Anita delivering the Nuclear Peace Age’s third annual Frank K. Kelly Lecture on Humanity’s Future in Feb 2004.