Glasier Papers

Scope and Content

The Collected papers of the Glasiers include some 3000 letters, as well as diaries, newscuttings, photographs and some printed ephemera, dating from c. 1879-1975

Administrative / Biographical History

"...many thousands have made their first contact with Socialist principles through the writings and speeches of the Glasiers" (Labour Party Pamphlets Introducing Labour's Special Campaigners

John Bruce Glasier (1889-1920) and Katharine StJohn Conway(1867-1960), later Katharine Bruce Glasier)were pioneers of the British Socialist movement. They were both involved in the formation of the Independent Labour Party in 1893 as a union of Labour and Socialist organisations with the aim of promoting Labour candidates for Parliament; and it was through this involvement that they met, and married, in 1893.

John Bruce Glasier (more generally known as 'Bruce Glasier') was born in Glasgow, the son of a farmer and cattle dealer of militant atheist beliefs, and was apprenticed as an architectural draughtsman. His early political career favoured non-pacifist and non-parliamentary socialism: he took an active part in the Irish and Highland land League agitations; was a founder member of the first Scottish Social Democratic organisation in 1884; and was a member of its National Administrative Council from 1896-1909 and 1910 until his death and the chairman of the I.L.P. from 1900-1903. He was an ardent believer in International Socialism, serving as national I.L.P. delegate at many of the International Socialist Congresses, and remembered by Jean Longuet as "one of the most radiant figures in the International Socialist movement" (in the Labour Leader17 June 1920).

A powerful speaker and prolific journalist for the cause, he served as editor of the Labour Leader(1904-1909) and the Socialist Review(1913-1916); edited a book of Socialist Songs, and the Socialist Year Bookfrom 1911-1913; and wrote during his last illness The Meanings of Socialism and William Morris and the Early Days of the Socialist Movement. After his death in 1920 he was remembered as "an apostle of Socialism" Francis Johnson in Labours Northern Voice and the "the greatest of the Socialist evangelists" William Stewart in the Glasgow Evening Times22 March 1935.

Katharine St John Conway was the daughter of an Essex congregationalist minister, and after reading Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge became a school mistress at a Bristol High school. She was attracted to Socialism by a demonstration of striking women cotton workers during a church service she was attending, after which she gave up her high school job to teach at an infant's school in the deprived area of Bristol; became a member of the Bristol Socialist Society and then the Fabian Society, and took to public campaigning for the Socialist cause. She was one of the committee of six which convened the 1893 Bradford conference that brought the Independent Labour party into being, and a member of its first National Administrative Council.

Throughout her life she campaigned vigorously as an inspirational orator , writer  and journalist  for the Labour movement' her career included editorship of the Labour Leader(1917-1921); involvement in the formation and administration of the Women's Labour League pioneering public-speaking and writing for a number of social causes, amongst them the introduction of pithead baths for the miners, National Old Age Homes, provisions of school meals for children of the poor, and the campaign for municipal nursery schools Fenner Brockway, M.P., wrote of her life "there are few who during this century have contributed so much to social well-being" (North of England Home service broadcast17 January 1951 ). At the time of her death at the age of 82 in 1950 she was affectionately referred to as the 'grandmother of the British Labour movement'.


The papers are arranged into groups of

  • GP/1  General correspondence
  • GP/2  Diaries
  • GP/3  Notebooks
  • GP/4  Newscuttings
  • GP/5  Printed Ephemera
  • GP/6  Collected Publications
  • GP/7  Personal Papers
  • GP/8  Biographical Papers

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide researchers

Acquisition Information

The material was presented to Liverpool University in 1976  by the Glasiers' son, Malcome Bruce Glasier, and includes material remaining in his possession since his parents' deaths, and some material relating to the Glasiers collected by Francis Johnson, former long-standing Independent Labour Party General Secretary, held at a later date by the Independent Labour Party. A further small deposit of letters and cuttings sent by Katharine Bruce Glasier to her Quaker friends William and Margaret Harvey was received in 1992 ,  May 1999 and November 2001  from their daughter Mrs S.G. Graham.

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available in the reading room.

Archivist's Note

The Glasier papers were originally listed by Emma Challinor and Clare Tunstall additional acquisitions have been added to the original list. The finding aid has been edited by Roy lumb for inclusion on the Archives Hub.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request


There are no anticipated accruals

Related Material

The Records of the Independent Labour Party are held by the London University at the London School of Economics Library.

Manchester University Labour History Archive and Study Centre hold the Labour Party archive and hold some letters relating to John Bruce Glasier. The Labour History archive and Study centre also hold collections relating to the Labour and Socialist International.

The University of Toronto Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library hold 11 letters from John Bruce Glasier to James Mavor (1885-1893).

The William Morris Gallery hold 54 letters, mainly from Morris, to John Bruce Glasier (1886-1900).

Manchester University John Rylands Library hold letters to James Ramsay Macdonald from John Bruce Glasier (1907).


Thompson, LaurenceThe Enthusiasts A Biography of Katharine and John Bruce GlasierVictor and Gollancz. Ltd, London 1971Ed James, DavidJowitt, TonyLaybourn, KeithThe Centennial History of the Independent Labour PartyRyburn Academic Publishing 1992Hardie, J.K.Macdonald, J.R. and Snowden, PhilipFrom Serfdom to Socialism, Labour of the Emprie and The Socialist's BudgetHarvest, Brighton 1974 , all three works originally published Allen 1907Howell, DavidBritish Workers and the Independent Labour Party, 1888-1906Manchester University Press 1983Mackail, John WHomer An Address Delivered on Behalf of the Independent Labour PartyHammersmith Pub. Society London 1905Pelling, Henry M.A Short History of the Labour PartyMacmillan Press, 1961Pelling, Henry M.The Origins of the Labour Party, 188-1900Clarendon Press, 1965