Rita Milton

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Rita Milton, 1924–2011.

Glasgow Born

Rita Milton, who has died aged 87, is remembered in Glasgow and London as a delightful anarchist with a brilliant sense of humour. She is still celebrated for her 1952 performance in a debate with the Marriage Guidance Council. Now called Relate, this is a well-intentioned group whose advisers help with relationships of all sorts. But in the debate with Rita, it was represented by a pair of censorious bigots, unashamed in their hatred of sex (outside marriage) and of “these people” who advocated freedom. Rita defeated them with a hilarious display of apparent misunderstanding, responding to their abuse with phoney innocent remarks like, “I thought a tart was something ye ate”.

Rita was born in Kelvinside, a middle-class district in Glasgow, on 31st. May 1924. She had three older brothers, one of whom fought against the fascists in the Spanish Civil war, when he was 18. She went to school in Brodick on the Isle of Arran, delivered messages in Brodick, on a boys bike, at the age of 14, and was a shop assistant at 17, before being conscripted into the Women's Land Army.

Glasgow and London Anarchists

In 1945 she met the Glasgow anarchists, and acted for a time as chairman of Sunday evening meetings addressed by Frank leech, Jimmy Raeside, and Eddie Shaw, with audiences of hundreds (there was no television in those days, and Glasgow pubs did not open on Sundays). In 1946 she moved to London and met Philip Sansom, an editor of War Commentary for Anarchism, which shortly afterwards reverted to its earlier name Freedom. At the time of her encounter with the Marriage Guidance people, she was Philip's companion, working with him at Express Printers, which was owned by Freedom Press. She was employed by two of Express Printers' commercial customers, as editor of Sewing Machine Times and production editor of The Journal of Sex education.

Malatesta Club

In 1954 she was a founder member of the Malatesta Club, and it was there that she and Philip met Hew Warburg, an anarchist who had made a fortune supplying palettes for forklift trucks, made of otherwise useless scrap timber. The three shared a house for a short time, then Philip moved out to leave the field clear for Hew, a healthy and useful arrangement which would have appalled Rita's old antagonists. Rita and Hew married when their son, John Warburg was fifteen years old, enabling Rita to enjoy all the perquisites and privileges of a legally married widow, after Hew died in 1983.

A Stroke

Later her health declined, but she remained a subscriber and donor to Freedom, in touch with her old friends, whom she entertained with frequent parties. Recently she suffered a stroke, which robbed her of the ability to read and made her tired of life. Resolute to the end, she hastened here death by refusing to eat. She died on December 17th. 2011.

This information was taken from an obituary published in Freedom Volume 73 February 2012.

The book Radical Glasgow

Radical Glasgow website