Born in Romford, Essex on March 12th 1926, as Betty Smith. Her childhood was indelibly marked by her mother’s death from breast cancer in 1937, when Betty was just eleven years old. She was a bright pupil, receiving eight O level passes from her grammar school, but she couldn’t wait to leave school and went to work as a short hand secretary at the age of sixteen.
In 1944, she moved to
She first joined the Labour League of Youth but soon met, and was won over by, activists in the Young Communist League which had many more active members. She met her husband-to-be, Ken Coates, on a ramble organised by the YCL in the Peak district, near
Coates was soon out of the Party over the denunciation of Tito and their marriage did not last. Following the Hungarian events Betty also left the Communist Party, later joining the Labour Party, of which she remained a member until her death.
In 1967 she moved to a new posting as headmistress of the
At the age of 55, in 1981, she emigrated to