Born in 1919, from a working class background, as Gladys Margaret French, she joined the Labour Party League of Youth at the age of 15 and was in the Lambeth Young Communist League by her 16th year. Gladys became highly active in demonstrations in support of Spain and was a key worker for the Spanish Youth Foodship committee. She was also a supporter of the Socialist Youth Camp held on the outskirts of London, which was then regularly attended at weekends by members of the YCL and Labour League of Youth.
By 1942, at the age of 23, she was the Secretary of the Fleet Street branch of the Party, which will have included some leading journalists who wanted their Party membership kept quiet. MI5 believed that her main work from hereon involved collecting “dues from undercover members of the party” and ensured that she endured full surveillance operation. Actually, much of her subsequent work was with the collection of funds from Jewish businessmen, although she did have funding relationships with some prominent persons out with this group.
She was the Communist Party Parliamentary candidate for Clapham in London during the 1950 general election, standing as Mrs G Draper. Seemingly, before using this name, she also used the alias of Craig and sometimes went by the name of French, which was of course not an alias (despite MI5 calling it that in their files) but her father’s name and the one she was born with. Craig may even have been her mother’s name.
Gladys was employed at the Communist Party headquarters in King Street from 1949 for many years. During 1950-2 Gladys worked with Isabel Brown (see separate entry) full-time on a “special donations drive in co-operation with the London District” (almost certainly from the Jewish business community). It was reported to the 1952 Party congress that the two women were “able to maintain the income from this source”. Jewish support had been dented by the foundation of Israel from 1948.
In 1952, she married a stalwart of the Transport and General Workers Union, Sid C Easton (see separate entry and also his memoirs elsewhere on this site) He was a taxi driver, a former accomplished boxer, branch secretary and later a member of the general executive council of the TGWU. Gladys was subsequently well known to many of the prominent personalities of the TGWU, through this connection. Gladys Easton worked for many years for Thompson's, the trade union orientated solicitors.
For a number of years, Gladys was, for legal reasons, the formal publisher of certain Party publications. Remaining a Communist throughout her life, she stood again on a number of occasions as a candidate for public office, notably in the 1964 and 1966 general elections, and continued to be noted for being an able fund-raiser. She died on November 21st 2001.
Sources: National Archives KV2/2695 and 2696 MI5 files; Morning Star 30th November 2001