OBITUARIES

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1994:

Muriel, The Lady Dowding, died
in England on November 21, 1993, at age
85. A long series of strokes had left her con-
fined to a nursing home, isolated from friends
and deeply impoverished after giving most of
her fortune to animal causes. Her chief regret
late in life, she told ANIMAL PEOPLE
publisher Kim Bartlett, was that she was “no
longer able to do very much for the animals.”
A lifelong vegetarian, Theosophist,
and spiritualist, after her mother’s example,
the Lady Dowding argued in her 1980 autobi-
ography, The Psychic LIfe of Muriel, the
Lady Dowding, that enlightenment cannot be
achieved without sensitivity to animals. She
was long active in the White Eagle Lodge, a
British/American religious group with special
concern for animals.

Then known as Muriel Whiting, the
future Lady Dowding met Air Chief Marshal
Lord Hugh Dowding in 1944, shortly after
her husband Max Whiting, a Royal Air Force
bomber pilot, was killed in action. Dowding
had become a national hero in 1940 as head of
Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain.
As son David Whiting recalled for Bartlett,
“Lord Dowding felt a great moral responsibili-
ty toward those who had lost their young men
in combat under his command. This led him
to investigate whether there was life after
death.” He sought advice from Mrs. Whiting,
who in turn asked him to oppose cruelty in
slaughterhouses. They married after the war.
The Lord Dowding quit eating meat and hunt-
ing as part of his marital vows. Serving in the
House of Lords, the upper chamber of the
British Parliament, from 1948 until his death
in 1970, Dowding endorsed a humane slaugh-
ter bill in his debut speech; of his 32 speeches
to the Lords, 27 concerned animal welfare.
Upon his death, David Whiting retired from
a career in engineering and devoted much
time thereafter to further tightening slaughter
laws, “with particular attention,” he said,
“to the unnecessary cruelties involved in reli-
gious slaughter.”
The Lady Dowding emerged as a
public crusader in her own right circa 1955,
after denouncing fur-wearers at a spiritualist
gathering for insensitivity “to the vibrations
of terror and suffering emanating from the
skins of those animals.” At about the same
time she learned from former whaling fleet
surgeon Harry Lillie about the cruelties of
whaling and the annual slaughter of baby harp
seals off Atlantic Canada. With Lillie, she
tried to spark protest on behalf of marine
mammals, with little success until the first
graphic film of the harp seal killing became
available in 1964. In 1957 she was elected to
the council of the British National Anti-
Vivisection Society (not affiliated with the
U.S. NAVS). Two years later, lifelong
friend Rev. Jean LeFevre of the White Eagle
Lodge in Texas recalled, “In conjunction
with Sylvia Barbnel, author of When Your
Animal Dies, and Elsbeth Douglas Reid, a
well-known actress, Muriel founded Beauty
Without Cruelty. BWC drew the support of
Celia Hammond, an internationally famous
model, who refused to model any product
that involved cruelty to animals and offered
her services, free of charge. David Bailey
took numerous photographs and the new soci-
ety caught on.” Seeking alternatives to ani-
mal-based beauty products, chemist Kathleen
Long developed a product line by testing for-
mulations on the BWC directors. In 1963
Long and the Lady Dowding formed Beauty
Without Cruelty Cosmetics.
“Muriel and her helpers trudged
wearily around to store after store trying to get
them to sell the new products,” LeFevre
added. “Although empathy was expressed,
shopkeepers were reluctant to take on the new
line, lest the anti-cruelty message alienate their
established suppliers. Finally, Grace Cook,
another great humanitarian, offered Muriel free
space in the premises of the White Eagle
Lodge. Most of the members of this church,
both in England and the U.S., are vegetarians
and very concerned with all life, so the new
cruelty-free products were very well received.”
The enterprise “rapidly exceeded Kathleen’s
facilities and Muriel’s business acumen. With
stringent safeguards, BWC went professional,”
under Grenville Hawkins and Joseph Piccioni.
Afflicted by serious illness in 1978,
The Lady Dowding rallied in March 1979 to fly
to New York as star guest along with actress
Gretchen Wyler and Fund for Animals founder
Cleveland Amory during a week of antifur
protest coordinated by Dr. Ethel Thurston,
head of the U.S. branch of BWC, to coincide
with the American International Fur Fair. The
effort is remembered as the real beginning of
the U.S. anti-fur movement.
Sheila Raleigh Winsten, 80, died
December 1 at Glens Falls, New York. A
noted painter, Winsten abandoned art in her
later years and devoted her limited resources
instead to animal rescue.
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