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Ruth and Eddie Frow

portrait of Ruth and Eddie Frow at the Working Class Movement Library

Ruth and Eddie Frow were founder members of the North West Labour History Society and contributed enormously to the Society's activities and publications over many years.

Eddie was born on 6 June 1906, the son of a tenant farmer of 18 acres, in the village of Harrington in Lincolnshire. He left school aged 14 and after a year at trade school commenced his working life, as an apprentice in the drawing office of an engineering firm. Later he became a toolmaker. In 1924, aged 17, he joined the Communist Party.

He was 20 when he joined the General Strike in 1926. The engineers' union had not been called out. It was a move of personal solidarity for which he lost his job. Eddie reckoned that over the following 20 years he lost 20 out of 21 jobs because of his union activity. Always a shop steward or convener, he served for 20 years on the National Committee of the AEU, standing down in 1961 when he was elected as the full-time Secretary for the Manchester District.

In the early 1930s he was an active member of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement, and chairman of the Salford branch. Eddie was one of the leaders of a march to the Town Hall in Bexley Square. The police wouldn't let a deputation through to meet the council. They broke up the march and arrested the leaders. Eddie got a beating from the police and served five months in prison.

In the mid 1950s he met Ruth at CP school and they embarked on a personal and political relationship which lasted for four decades.

Ruth had left school in 1939 and spent the next four and a half years in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. She joined the Communist Party in 1945 in Sandwich, Kent, where she had been canvassing for the Labour Party in the 1945 election. Local miners advised her to join the CP in preference to the Labour Party. Ruth subsequently served in many positions of responsibility within the Party.

When Ruth returned to London after the war she became involved in the peace movement, serving as a member of the National Council of the British Peace Committee. She was Secretary of Manchester Peace Committee when Manchester C.N.D. was formed, and was elected as their first Vice-Chairman.

After the war Ruth took an Emergency Training Scheme to become a teacher and became involved in union activity as a member of the National Union of Teachers. She represented Manchester Teachers' Association on Manchester and Salford Trades Council. She was President of Altrincham N.U.T. at the time when they went on strike for a day in the early '70s. She took early retirement in 1980. At the time she was the Deputy Head of one of Manchester's largest comprehensives.

In the mid 1950s Ruth and Eddie began collecting books on labour and working-class history and by the late 1960s they had built up an enviable collection of works in their home at 111 King's Road, Stretford. Room after room was filled with books. They gave it a name - the Working Class Movement Library - and people began to visit to research, their studies enhanced by Eddie's knowledge and Ruth's buns. In 1987 the library moved to its current home on The Crescent where it has developed enormously in the years since.

As well as collecting Eddie and Ruth wrote countless articles and essays on aspects of the labour movement, making great use of the Library as a source. They also helped establish the national Society for the Study of Labour History and the North West Labour History Society.

When Eddie died in May 1997 Ruth carried on undaunted working for the library which she visited every day and remained active until the day she died in January 2008.

They are sorely missed by friends and comrades.

Michael Herbert

Selected Publications by Ruth and Edmund Frow

The Half-time System in Education
To Make that Future - Now!: a history of the Manchester and Salford Trades Council
And the New Paths are Begun!: a history of Manchester and Salford Trades Council, Vol. II
(Jim Arnison and Edmund & Ruth Frow)
Politics of Hope
Political Women
Engineering Struggles
The General Strike in Salford in 1911
Essays on the Irish in Manchester
The Battle of Bexley Square
Radical and Red Poets and Poetry
Frederick Engels in Manchester and ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ in 1844
Essays in Insurrection
Greater Manchester men who fought in Spain
Karl Marx in Manchester
Manchester and Salford Chartists
The New Moral World
Radical Salford
Shop Stewards
William Morris in Manchester and Salford
Democracy in the Engineering Union
Communist Party Pit and Factory Papers, 1927 and 1934
The Communist Party in Manchester 1920-1926
Citizen Guillotine
Bob and Sarah Lovell

A more comprehensive bibliography appears in Born With a Book in His Hand, ed. Michael Herbert and Eric Taplin, North West Labour History Group, 1998.