Socialist Worker

Terri Behrman 1942-2018

by Simon Behrman
Issue No. 2593

Terri Behrman

Terri Behrman

Terri Behrman, who died on 24 February, had a commitment to radical politics stretching back to the 1960s.

Born in New York in 1942, she moved to California in 1964 to pursue graduate studies at Stanford. Living mostly in San Francisco and Berkeley until 1972, she was lucky to be at the centre of one of the most dynamic political and cultural milieus of the 20th Century.

She was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement, and had friends who were members of the Black Panther Party, which was founded at that time in nearby Oakland. The right-wing backlash also began in California under Ronald Reagan, who was governor of the state.

One of the major flashpoints was a sustained attack on funding for the state’s public schools. As a teacher, Terri was involved in her first strikes over this issue.

In 1972 she moved to the UK, where she married and raised a family. Her husband was from South Africa, and an activist in the anti-apartheid movement. Terri immediately got involved in this too. She also continued her career as a special needs teacher in various schools around London, and was an active member of the NUT union until her retirement in the early 2000s.

When the Ofsted inspectorate was introduced, she always insisted on burning its assessment of her teaching in the staff room, without looking at it, and encouraged her colleagues to do the same.

The by-the-numbers approach to teaching, and the playing-off of teacher against teacher, and school against school, that Ofsted represents, went against everything she believed about education.


During most of the last 25 years of her life, Terri was an active member of the SWP in North London. She was a regular fixture on Socialist Worker sales and petitioning along Holloway Road.

She had no paper-selling “technique”, instead with fearlessness and great charisma she just engaged people in conversation about politics as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Just as in her personal life, people almost always responded to her warmth and passion.

Terri also had a love for music and art. Her musical loves included Broadway musicals (she had an encyclopaedic knowledge and could sing from memory any one of hundreds of showtunes from the 1930s to the 1960s), The Beatles, Bach and Beethoven.

In later years, she picked up avidly on contemporary music, from David Bowie to Steve Reich, introduced to her by her children. But her greatest love was art. She would regularly visit galleries around London, and read voraciously on the subject. The walls of her home were always covered with posters, prints, and cut-outs from magazines of art that appealed to her, right next to pictures drawn by her children and grandchildren.

In the last couple of years, Terri was increasingly debilitated by illness. But her passion for politics never slipped. I have a very vivid and happy memory of taking her to vote in the 2017 general election—her MP was Jeremy Corbyn.

As usual she was enthusiastically arguing with people standing next to her in the voting queue, the Green Party representative outside, and anyone else she could find, to vote Labour.

She will be much missed by her two children and two grandchildren.

Article information

Tue 27 Feb 2018, 16:40 GMT
Issue No. 2593
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