Monday, 15 June 2020

Kate Sharpley.

      I regularly receive emails from the Kate Sharpley Library, with their latest publications, all very interesting and informative. I consider the Kate Sharpley Library to be one of all too few archives of the anarchist movement, that are a necessary part of our history, and a wonderful resource to aid us in our struggles. In there you will find inspiration, knowledge and often hidden historical events. We at Spirit of Revolt do what we can to add to that rich history and resource.
    Who was Kate Sharpley? The following extract will give you a little insight to this remarkable woman:
Albert Meltzer
       One of our frequently asked questions is 'who was Kate Sharpley?' Many of our readers will know of her as 'One of the countless "unknown" members of our movement ignored by the official historians of anarchism.' We hope this tribute, written by Albert Meltzer in 1978 will help to fill that statement out a little. There are more details in Albert's autobiography I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels.
     Kate's Tinwear
    Sixty-five years ago Queen Mary was handing out medals in Greenwich, most of them for fallen heroes being presented to their womenfolk. One 22-year old girl, said by the local press to be under the influence of anarchist propaganda, having collected medals for her dead father, brother and boyfriend, then threw them in the Queen's face, saying, 'If you think so much of them, you can keep them.' The Queen's face was scratched and so was that of one of her attendant ladies. The police, not a little under the influence of patriotic propaganda, then grabbed the girl and beat her up. When she was released from the police station a few days later, no charges being brought, she was scarcely recognisable.
     The girl was Kate Sharpley, who had been active in the Woolwich anarchist group and helped keep it going through the difficult years of World War 1. After her clash with the police she was sacked from her job 'on suspicion of dishonesty' (there was nothing missing but a policeman had called checking up on her…) and, selling libertarian pamphlets in the street, she was recognised by the police and warned that if she appeared there again she would be charged with 'soliciting as a prostitute' (which in those days would have been a calamity, and even today a disaster, if once convicted). Isolated from her family, and with the group broken up, she moved out of activity, away from the neighbourhood, and married.
    I met her, by chance, last year in Lewisham. Twice widowed, she remembered the anarchist movement with nostalgia, and gave me a fascinating account of the local group in the years before World War 1. Unfortunately, she was already very ill, and a few weeks ago, she died, I was told by one of her neighbours.
     I had, though, asked her for a message to the Anarchist movement today. Her answer: 'Tell the kids they're doing all right, they don't need any advice from me.' Especially she praised the young women of today: 'I wouldn't have had to take cover like I did if women of my day had any guts' she said. But she did have guts. A few only in 1917 dared take any action in bereaved England.
       The following is the latest I received from The Kate Sharpley Library:


Here's a link to NOT the bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library, No.2 June 2020
New pieces on the Kate Sharpley Library website
Three articles by Albert Meltzer
Elsewhere (AK Press; Audio; Naples 1884; Bristol 2020)
Still going (Research on The 1945 split in British anarchism)
You can read the PDF at
  Image at the top of the page comes from Crimethincs ‘The Anarchists versus the Plague: Malatesta and the Cholera Epidemic of 1884’
Visit ann arky's home at

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