Coates Betty

 Betty Coates

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 London together with her friend Audrey and joined ‘the war effort,’ working at the meteorological office, part of the Air Ministry. The post-war teaching shortage gave her the chance to enlist for a one-year teacher-training course outside London and then to Nottingham, where teachers were in huge demand. Here she discovered the works of D H Lawrence, and socialist politics.


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 Chesterfield.

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 Bell St Infants School in Wigston and became secretary of the Harborough Constituency Labour Party. In 1975, she was elected divisional secretary of the Leicestershire NUT.


At the age of 55, in 1981, she emigrated to Australia in 1981, started working in a tax office rather and joined the Australian Labour Party. She died on the 6th December 2001.







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