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Betty Reid

Pic: MI5 surveillance snap taken in 1972

Born in lpswich, the youngest daughter of a former soldier, on May 1st 1915. In her youth she was influenced by a number of mentoring figures, including a socialist history teacher and a local librarian. Initially joined the Labour League of Youth. In the mid-1930s, she met her future husband John Lewjs, the Labour candidate for Great Yarmouth and a former Presbyterian minister, then in his 40s and in the course of embracing Communism. In 1937, they moved to London to work for the Left Book Club. Reid played a particular role in the organization of the local groups in a central organisation department, a role that prefigured her later career in the Party itself.

In the 1930s, she toured the Soviet Union as a member of a group whose numbers were reduced to just three by Moscow's refusal to sanction visas. In the post-war period, she worked for many years in the CPGB Organisation Department in King Street. She was mainly responsible for maintaining vigilance against hostile or dissident elements during the Cold War. In 1950, via Soviet Weekly, Reid found a home-help, only to realise, years later, that her employee was an MI5 plant. The story was widely publicized. Nonetheless, Reid re-established relations with her former friend, and they exchanged cards until her death!

In the late 1960s, with she wrote a pamphlet on the ultra-left in Britain, using her voluminous files of these organizations as source material. Reid continued to work for the Communist party into her 70s. She spent her final years looking after Yvonne Kapp, the biographer of Eleanor Marx, and assisted in the posthumous publication of Kapp's memoirs. Reid died on January 4th 2004, her husband having predeceased her.

Source: Guardian 11th February 2004