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Kate Sharpley (1891-1978) was a British anarchist. She was a munitions worker and was active in the shop stewards movement; the Kate Sharpley Library in London is a repository of documents from anarchist pasts and presents.
Sharpley was born in Deptford. She worked for a German baker but with the onslaught of WWI went into munitions work in Woolwich. Here she had been active in the shop stewards movement and Woolwich anarchist group, helping keep it going through the difficult years of World War I.
In 1917 Queen Mary was handing out medals in Greenwich for fallen WWI heroes being presented to their womenfolk. Kate Sharpley, then 22-year old, having collected medals for her dead father, brother and boyfriend, then threw them in the Queens face, saying, "If you like them so much, you can have them!" The Queens face was scratched and so was that of one of her attendant ladies. The police grabbed the girl and beat her up. When she was released from the police station a few days later, no charges being brought, she was scarcely recognisable.
After her clash with the police she was sacked from her job on suspicion of dishonesty and, selling libertarian pamphlets in the street, she was recognised by the police and warned that if she appeared there again she would be charged with soliciting as a prostitute. Isolated from her family, and with the group broken up, she moved out of activity, away from the neighbourhood, and married.
The Kate Sharpley Library (or KSL) is a library dedicated to anarchist texts and history. Started in 1979 and reorganized in 1991, it currently holds around ten thousand English language volumes, pamphlets and periodicals. The library was begun in the squatted 121 Centre in Brixton, London in 1979 by a collective which included Albert Meltzer. It had both lending and reference sections. When the centre was raided in 1984, the archive was moved to a different squat for safety. When the library was moved to the safety of Barry Pateman's home in 1991, the focus shifted towards being a special collection and archive. After being located in Northampton between 1991 and 1999, the library was moved again, this time to a renovated barn at the home of Barry Pateman and Jessica Moran in California.
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