Jane Hatfield obituary

·3 min read

My wife, Jane Hatfield, who has died aged 53 from ovarian cancer, described herself on her Twitter account as a “reluctant but determined cancer ‘patient’, charity CEO, parent, feminist”.

Jane was a wonderful mix of contradictions. Her commitment to public service lay alongside a playful, wicked sense of humour; her confidence in speaking truth to power belied her shyness and acute self-criticism. She could show her vulnerabilities while being focused and effective, ready to compromise while not making any concessions on her acute sense of justice. She was a passionate advocate for women’s health and equality and all LGBTQ+ causes.

Born near Marlow, Buckinghamshire, she was the daughter of Chris (nee Ellis), a social worker, and Bob Hatfield, who worked for ICI. Jane’s parents joked that they were the only Guardian readers for miles. After attending Wycombe high school and King James college in Henley, Jane obtained a degree in philosophy, politics and economics at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and then began her career in the voluntary sector.

She worked in a women’s crisis shelter in Andover, Hampshire, supported microfinancing of women’s businesses in Kenya, and was a program developer in OXAIDS, an HIV/Aids charity in Oxford. She also obtained an MSc in voluntary organisations development at the London School of Economics. A stint as a commissioner for the South London Consortium for Aids/HIV led to her working for the all-party parliamentary group on Aids in the 1990s.

From 1999 until 2004, Jane held leadership roles within the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and completed an MBA at Cranfield. Her next move was to Breast Cancer Care, as director of development, before in 2013 becoming the first chief executive of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, based in London. She modernised and transformed the organisation alongside building its credibility and influence. She was awarded an honorary fellowship of the faculty shortly before her death.

All the while, Jane held a number of voluntary roles, including being a founding trustee at Clinks, the criminal justice body in England and Wales, and chair of the Institute of Voluntary Action Research.

Jane was an avid traveller - she visited 48 countries in five continents. If ever she spied a mountain she had to climb it; and if she spotted a bar, she had to have a cocktail in it. She adored a good piece of furniture, and fine food, and had immaculate dress sense. She was always ready with a sharp analysis of current affairs.

She and I met in a gay house-share in Brixton in the 1990s and became life partners, making our home in London; when it became possible for same-sex couples, we were married, in 2019.

Our son, Saul, who watched the news every night with Jane, recalled that “she was right about everything, but in a good way … and she was the best driver, always going over the speed limit”. Our daughter Alma, extolled her mother’s “beautiful sheeplike curly hair”, and noted: “I just loved everything about her.”

Jane is survived by me, Saul and Alma, her parents and her sister, Katie, and brother, Richard.

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