Audrey Beecham [1915-89]

Audrey Beecham was a subscriber to Black Flag from ‘Bulletin No, 1’ to the last. The renewed issue came back with a notification that she had died in Oxford, where she had retired. She was in her seventies. 

In the ‘thirties Audrey went to the Spanish War as a driver in the Friends Ambulance Unit. The Quakers did not approve of her carrying a rifle, and she joined the Anarchist militia. In the ‘sixties she was principal of a Nottingham women’s college and the Black Cross could always rely on her to get residence and work permits for those of the Iberian Resistance wanted by the fascist police who came, at a minute’s notice, to England. 

She worked for many defence campaigns including the Angry Brigade and ‘Persons Unknown’. Though an Anarchist she also supported some active Marxist-Leninist feminist separatist groups and was involved with Amnesty and other civil liberties organisations as well, explaining once she ‘could not escape from her middle class liberal academic background’. 

I was told by her shocked colleagues that when the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ was loose, some male students holding a ‘rag’ twice invaded the women’s dormitories at night pretending to be the rapist-murderer. On the second occasion they were confronted by the formidable principal in her dressing gown, firing a pistol in the air, and shouting “Next time I’m shooting straight”, which discouraged a third replay. 

She was a good friend to Miguel Garcia and myself. I took back from Barcelona this October many messages of greetings from Spanish friends both of the ‘thirties and ‘sixties, which will never now be delivered. 

AM [Albert Meltzer]

Black Flag 204 (Spring 1994)

Further fragments on Audrey Beecham

She was inevitably a rebellious and adventurous undergraduate, taking off in the long vacation of 1936 to run guns for the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War.’ (Rachel Trickett, entry on Beecham in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ‘Audrey Beecham, who was also in Barcelona for her summer holidays, participated in the street fighting’ Somerville for Women: An Oxford College, 1879-1993 by Pauline Adams. 

There’s also a much later mention in Freedom: ‘Audrey Beecham gave a splendid impromptu exposition of the practical demands being made by libertarians in the Women’s Liberation Movement to get MORE PIE NOW for working-class women.’ ‘Anarchist Conference Reaches Decisions’ (Report on 3rd Anarchist Syndicalist Alliance Conference, Sheffield, July 29-30 [1972]) 

Her papers are in the University of Nottingham Manuscripts and Special Collections, ‘restricted pending full cataloguing’. Might they throw more light on her time in Spain, and her connections to the anarchist movement?