Margaret Susan Ryder, known as Sue, was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, to an English gentry family. She was educated at home and studied literature and history with her father. She also participated in the life of the family estates by working in the dairy and driving a tractor. She finished her education at Benenden School. At the outbreak of World War II, as she was too young to enlist at age 15, she volunteered with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. She was soon assigned to the Special Operations Executive (SEO), driving agents to the airfield where they would take off for assignments in Occupied Europe. In 1942, she married a young naval officer who was killed in action soon afterwards. The following year, she was posted to Tunisia and later to Italy.
After the war ended, she stayed on in Europe, doing volunteer relief work among concentration camp survivors, sick, homeless, and stateless people in Germany, Poland, and other countries for more than 10 years. In 1959, she married Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, with whom she had two children. Each had established a charitable foundation -- Sue Ryder Foundation and Leonard Cheshire Disability -- and together they traveled and took on new humanitarian projects. In 1975, Sue Ryder published the first volume of her autobiography, And the Morrow is Theirs. A second volume, Child of My Love, was published in 1986.
In recognition of her work, she was named an Officer of the OBE in 1957, a CMG (Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George) in 1976, and created a life peer in 1979 as Baroness Ryder of Warsaw. After her husband was also made a life peer as Baron Cheshire in 1991, she obtained the additional title Baroness Cheshire of Suffolk.