Katharine Glasier & the Earby Hostel

One may find cheap board and lodging in the Earby Youth Hostel. Upon its frontage is a plaque commemorating the cottage’s former owner, Katharine Bruce Glasier. Born to a Congregationalist family, she was a supporter of the early labour movements. From 1916 she edited the Labour Leader and was a campaigner for free school meals and childcare. Her 1950 Guardian obituary summed her up as being ‘a Socialist evangelist and her speeches had the emotional force of a revivalist.’ She never lost her religious upbringing, being a speaker at the ‘Labour Churches’ of the 1890s and later becoming a Quaker. She was also a prominent member of the Theosophical Society, a mystical organisation claiming to combine universal religious truths and with philosophical and scientific enquiry. She willed that the pretty cottage in which had lived would become a hostel after her death.  

By worldly standards she was a great woman, campaigning for the marginalised and the poor, and helping to translate a disparate collection of working-class movements into a functioning party of government. Yet spiritually, she was all awash. Having abandoned the evangelical congregationalism of her youth, she sought to satisfy her spiritual needs with graceless, Christless forms of Christianity. Like many on the Victorian left, she sought to usher in Christ’s millennial rule without a ruling Christ. British socialism has produced a fine crop of intelligent, compassionate individuals such as the Webbs, Bertrand Russell and George Bernard Shaw (whose marriage proposal she rejected, as she wished to 'dedicate her life to socialism'), but few were godly.

I like the sound of Katharine Glasier; she did much good and helped change our country for the better. Whereas many socialists abandoned godliness, ironically embracing the materialistic assumptions of the capitalism against which they railed, she never lost her spiritual awareness. Yet acknowledging one’s metaphysical identity is insufficient; ways and truths other than Christ cannot lead to life.

Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves,
To go to the gardens
After an idol in the midst,
Eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse,
Shall be consumed together,” says the Lord. Is. 66:17