Pat Arrowsmith, English peace activist, Died at 98


Margaret P. Arrowsmith (March 2, 1930 – September 2023) was a remarkable English author and passionate peace campaigner. Her life was dedicated to the pursuit of justice, freedom, and equality, and she played a pivotal role in various social and political movements.

Early Life and Education

Margaret P. Arrowsmith was born into a clerical family in Leamington Spa, England, as the youngest of three children. Her parents were Margaret Vera Arrowsmith (née Kingham) and Reverend G. E. Arrowsmith.

Her educational journey took her to Stover School and later Cheltenham Ladies College. Her thirst for knowledge led her to Newnham College, Cambridge, where she studied history. She furthered her education in social science at the University of Liverpool and as a US–UK Fulbright Scholar at Ohio University.

Campaigning Activities

Margaret P. Arrowsmith was a tireless peace campaigner and advocate for social change. Her activism covered a wide range of issues:

Peace Campaigning

Arrowsmith co-founded the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in 1957 and served as one of its vice-presidents. She played a significant role in organizing the first Aldermaston march. Her commitment to the cause led her to serve eleven prison sentences for her political activities. In 1961, she gained attention after being force-fed during a hunger strike in Gateside prison.

Other Activism

Arrowsmith’s activism extended beyond nuclear disarmament. She campaigned against the Vietnam War, advocated for the removal of British troops from Northern Ireland, and protested the Gulf War. Additionally, she was involved in feminist and lesbian issues.

Amnesty International

For 24 years, Arrowsmith worked with the human-rights organization Amnesty International. She even became the organization’s first prisoner of conscience in Britain.

Legal Battles and Escape

In 1974, Margaret P. Arrowsmith faced legal troubles and was convicted of offenses related to distributing leaflets at a British army base, urging soldiers to refuse to serve in Northern Ireland. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Remarkably, she managed to escape from Askham Grange open prison on September 7, 1974. After her escape, she participated in an anti-fascist demonstration and found refuge at Housmans, a radical bookshop. Her escape made headlines and led to her eventual recapture.

Political Engagement

Margaret P. Arrowsmith was not only an activist but also ventured into politics. She ran as an Independent Socialist candidate in the 1979 parliamentary general election against then Prime Minister James Callaghan in his constituency of Cardiff South-East. Her passionate speech demanding the withdrawal of British troops from Ireland during Callaghan’s acceptance speech is remembered as a unique moment in British general elections.

Personal Life and Legacy

Arrowsmith was in a relationship with fellow peace campaigner Wendy Butlin, and her commitment to her beliefs even led her to a brief marriage to poet Donald Gardner to secure her inheritance, which she later donated to political causes, including Gay Pride Week 1979.

Margaret P. Arrowsmith passed away in London in September 2023 at the age of 93. Her legacy lives on through her writings, activism, and unwavering commitment to a more just and peaceful world. Her archive and personal papers are preserved at the LSE Library in London, ensuring that her contributions to the cause of peace and social justice continue to inspire future generations.


Margaret P. Arrowsmith was not only an activist but also a prolific writer. She authored novels, memoirs, poetry, and non-fiction works. Some of her notable publications include:


  • “Camp Christopher” (1949)
  • “Jericho” (1965)
  • “Somewhere like this” (1970)
  • “The Prisoner” (1982)
  • “Many are called” (1998)


  • “I should have been a Hornby Train” (1995)


  • “Breakout: poems and drawings from prison” (1975)
  • “On the Brink” (1981)
  • “Thin Ice: peace poems” (1984)
  • “Drawing to Extinction: poems and pictures” (2000)
  • “Going On” (2005)
  • “Dark Light” (2009)


  • “To Asia in Peace” (1972)
  • “The Colour of Six Schools” (1972)
  • “Nine Lives” (1990)

Margaret P. Arrowsmith’s writings continue to serve as a source of inspiration and a testament to her unwavering commitment to the causes she held dear.