Pat Arrowsmith was born on March 2, 1930, in Leamington Spa, into a clerical family as the youngest of three children. Her mother was Margaret Vera Arrowsmith (née Kingham) and her father was Reverend G. E. Arrowsmith. The family moved to Torquay in 1939, where she attended Stover School, and later transferred to Cheltenham Ladies College in September 1944. She studied history at Newnham College, Cambridge, and went on to study social science at the University of Liverpool and Ohio University as a US–UK Fulbright Scholar.
Arrowsmith was a co-founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in 1957 and served as one of its vice-presidents. She was one of the original signatories of the Committee of 100 and was also one of the organizers of the first Aldermaston march. Over the years, she was jailed eleven times for her political activities, including being force-fed while on a hunger strike in Gateside prison.
She worked for Amnesty International for 24 years up until 1994 and was the organization’s first prisoner of conscience in Britain.
Legal Troubles and Prison Escape
In 1974, Arrowsmith was convicted under the Incitement to Disaffection Act of 1934 for handing out leaflets at a British army base. She escaped from Askham Grange open prison in September of the same year. After her escape, she appeared at an anti-fascist rally and took refuge at Housmans, a radical bookshop.
Her appeal in 1975 was dismissed, but her sentence was reduced for immediate release. She also filed a case against the UK in the European Commission of Human Rights, which upheld her conviction as a “necessary restriction”.
Arrowsmith ran for Parliament as a candidate for the Radical Alliance and as an Independent Socialist. She was notably involved in heckling then-Prime Minister James Callaghan during his acceptance speech in 1979.
Arrowsmith was in a relationship with Wendy Butlin, another peace campaigner. She was briefly married to poet Donald Gardner to qualify for her father’s inheritance, which she later donated to various causes, including Gay Pride Week 1979.
- (1949) Camp Christopher
- (1965) Jericho
- (1970) Somewhere like this
- (1982) The Prisoner
- (1998) Many are called
- (1995) I should have been a Hornby Train
- (1975) Breakout: poems and drawings from prison
- (1981) On the Brink
- (1984) Thin Ice: peace poems
- (2000) Drawing to Extinction: poems and pictures
- (2005) Going On
- (2009) Dark Light
- (1972) To Asia in Peace
- (1972) The Colour of Six Schools
- (1990) Nice Lives
Pat Arrowsmith’s life and campaigns have been a touchstone for peace activism, civil disobedience, and social justice. Her legacy endures in the various causes she championed and the numerous publications she leaves behind.