Dame Shirley Porter – Philanthropist and Politician

Place of Birth

London, United Kingdom


Politics and philanthropy

Early Career

Dame Shirley attended Warren School for Girls and also a finishing school in Switzerland. After completing her studies at St Godric’s Secretarial & Language School in London, she was married and had two children. Dame Shirley Porter’s career started later when she become involved with local politics.

Dame Shirley Porter

Dame Shirley Porter
a former Conservative leader of Westminster City Council in London


During her many years in public service Dame Shirley held various roles including:

  • Councillor of Hyde Park Ward in 1974-1993
  • Leader of Westminster City Council in 1983-1991
  • Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London in 1988-1994
  • Lord Mayor of Westminster in 1991-1992

Her work in office was highlighted by her drive to create a cleaner and more wholesome environment. She had fantastic success in cleaning up London and in alleviating problems associated with the sex industry in the city.

Philanthropy and Sponsorship

Dame Shirley Porter has had a long-standing passion for improving the environment and individual lives. This devotion led to her establishing the Porter Foundation, along with her late husband Sir Lesley Porter. The Foundation is a charitable organisation involved with various campaigns in the fields of education, environmental improvement, care for the elderly, the arts and sport. Dame Shirley is particularly involved with Tel Aviv University where she has made generous donations, including funding the construction of the Porter School of Environmental Studies. Other projects close to her heart include various centres aimed at helping the elderly and the Daniel Marcus Nautical Centre, in honour of her late grandson.

Dame Shirley Porter was born in 1930 to Sir Jack Edward Cohen and Sarah Fox. Jack Cohen founded the British retail supermarket chain Tesco, and Sarah Fox was a tailor’s daughter. Shirley Cohen and her family lived in what was previously a council house in Hackney, in London’s East End. She attended the Warren School for Girls from 1939-1945 in Worthing, Sussex. Following this she attended a finishing school in Switzerland, and spent a year studying at St Godric’s Secretarial & Language School in London. Shirley Porter and Leslie Porter married in 1949 and had two children together – a son and a daughter.

Dame Shirley Porter started her career fairly late in life, but enjoyed many years of public service in the United Kingdom. Initially, she served as a magistrate, and by 1974 was elected as a Conservative Councillor for the Hyde Park Ward of Westminster City Council, London. Several years later, she headed up the Council’s Environmental Committee, where she focused her attention on cleaning up the borough’s streets, with initiatives such as anti-littering laws and recycling operations. Such was her popularity at the time that she was elected as the Leader of the Council in 1983. Among her other projects were the Plain English Campaign and the Say No to Drugs Campaign. In 1990 Dame Shirley Porter was elected Lord Mayor of Westminster.

Anti-litter campaigns were a major focus of Dame Shirley Porter’s initiatives. In fact, litter was her bugbear and this is what originally inspired her to enter the political arena to make a positive change. She was spurred to action following a visit to Leningrad, Russia, where the cleanliness of the city made a deep impression on her. After joining the Clean Up London campaign, she managed to get many businesses and individuals on board. Several other campaigns ensued in later years, including the Cleaner London Campaign, and the Cleaner City Initiative. Additionally, Dame Shirley Porter worked tirelessly to alleviate the problems associated with the Soho sex industry in the early 1980s.

Nowadays, Dame Shirley Porter lives in Israel. She continues working with her philanthropic organization – The Porter Foundation – which she and her late husband established in 1970. Among others, The Porter Foundation was responsible for founding the Porter School of Environmental Studies at TAU (Tel Aviv University). Dame Shirley Porter has also committed herself to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Porter Senior Citizen Centre, and the Council for a Beautiful Israel. The Daniel Marcus Nautical Centre was also commissioned by the Porter Foundation in loving memory of her grandson, Daniel Amichai Marcus.