Ruth Frow died unexpectedly aged 85 on 11 January Ruth was the co‑founder with her long time partner Eddie Frow, who died in 1997, of the Working Class Movement Library in Salford.
The library has grown from the 1960s to be a major resource for British labour history with books, pamphlets and other memorabilia.
Frow, a teacher by profession, shared a passion with her husband for touring the country picking up second hand books.
The experience is documented in Travels With a Caravan, an article in a 1976 issue of History Workshop Journal. Despite referring to their bibliophilia as more of a disease than a hobby, the Frow’s perspective was not of archaeology but of political activism.
Ruth Frow had joined the Communist Party (CP) in Sandwich, Kent, in 1945 and stayed a member when moving to Manchester. She met Eddie Frow at a CP day school on labour history in 1953 and their engagement present was a book on William Morris.
Ruth, again in collaboration with Eddie, produced an extensive series of pamphlets and books on labour history ranging from struggles in the engineering union to the history of militant women.
In Manchester Ruth was a NUT teachers’ union rep and, from the later 1950s, a leading figure in the peace movement. Taking early retirement in 1980 she was able to devote herself full time to the library.
As befitted someone who had been a deputy head teacher of one of Manchester’s largest comprehensive schools, Ruth was a formidable figure but a great encourager of people researching labour history.
After Eddie’s death she continued to be associated with the library and kept it focused not just on preserving the past but also engaging with the future.