Monday, 27 January 2020

Ruth Frow - obituary (2008)

Ruth Frow 1922-2008
Written By: Maggie Cohen
Date: April 2008
Published In LSHG Newsletter Issue 31: Summer 2008  

Ruth Frow died unexpectedly aged 85 on 11 January. Ruth was the co‑founder with her long time partner Eddie Frow, who died in 1997, of the Working Class Movement Library in Salford.

The library has grown from the 1960s to be a major resource for British labour history with books, pamphlets and other memorabilia.

Frow, a teacher by profession, shared a passion with her husband for touring the country picking up second hand books. The experience is documented in ‘Travels with a Caravan’, an article in a 1976 issue of History Workshop Journal.

Despite referring to their bibliophilia as more of a disease than a hobby, the Frows’ perspective was not of archaeology but of political activism. Ruth Frow had joined the Communist Party (CP) in Sandwich, Kent, in 1945 and stayed a member when moving to Manchester. She met Eddie Frow at a CP day school on labour history in 1953 and their engagement present was a book on William Morris.
Ruth, again in collaboration with Eddie, produced an extensive series of pamphlets and books on labour history ranging from struggles in the engineering union to the history of militant women.

In Manchester Ruth was a NUT teachers’ union rep and, from the later 1950s, a leading figure in the peace movement. She was co-founder and first chair of CND in Manchester. Taking early retirement in 1980 she was able to devote herself full time to the library. As befitted someone who had been a deputy head teacher of one of Manchester’s largest comprehensive schools, Ruth was a formidable figure but a great encourager of people researching labour history.

After Eddie’s death she continued to be associated with the library and kept it focused not just on preserving the past but also engaging with the future.

The Trustees, Friends and staff of the Working Class Movement Library invite you A Celebration of Ruth Frow's Life on Saturday 5th April at 2pm at Peel Hall, University of Salford, The Crescent, Salford. Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available. (Peel Hall is virtually opposite the Library - but please use the crossing lower down as the road is lethal!).

The most effective way we can commemorate Ruth is to ensure that the library she and Eddie founded to rescue and make available the history of working class people and their struggles for justice, equality and a better life continues, flourishes and reaches out more widely. We know that Ruth would have wholeheartedly approved that we ask for donations in her memory to be made to the Library.

Please extend this invitation to colleagues and friends. We hope to see you on 5th April but know that if you are not able to attend you will be with us in spirit.

On behalf of the staff, volunteers and trustees,
Maggie Cohen, Chair of Trustees

Working Class Movement Library
51 The Crescent, Salford M5 4WX
Tel: 0161 736 3601 Fax: 0161 737 4115
Web: Email:

A version of this obituary first appeared in Socialist Worker.
See also Kevin Morgan’s obituary in The Guardian at

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