Barbara Smoker

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Barbara Smoker
Barbara Smoker.JPG
In Bloomsbury in 2017 at age 93.
Born (1923-06-02) 2 June 1923 (age 96)
Main interests

Barbara Smoker (born 2 June 1923) is a British Humanist activist and freethought advocate. She is also a former President of the National Secular Society (1972–1996), former Chair of the British Voluntary Euthanasia Society (now known as Dignity in Dying) (1981–1985) and was an Honorary Vice President of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association in the United Kingdom.


Barbara Smoker was born in London in 1923 into a Roman Catholic family. She served in the Women's Royal Naval Service from 1942 to 1945 in southeast Asia. In 1949 she became an atheist,[1] inspired by the writing of Hector Hawton,[2] Managing Director of the Rationalist Press Association and editor of The Humanist.

In 1950 Smoker joined the secular humanist movement when she became a member of the South Place Ethical Society,[2] where she was critical of seeking redress on religious grounds.[2] Eventually she became President of the National Secular Society for nearly 25 years (1972 [3]–1996). In that capacity, she represented the atheist viewpoint in print, on lecture platforms, speaking tours, on radio and television.

She was in demand to give addresses at secular funerals[2] and eventually officiated at non-religious funerals, wedding ceremonies, gay and lesbian commitments and baby namings. She was active in various social campaigns, such as the abolition of the death penalty, nuclear disarmament, legalization of abortion and for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.[2] She claimed to have financed the manufacture of the first Make Love, Not War badges that were popular in Britain during the 1960s.[2]

Barbara Smoker became the South Place Ethical Society's last and only female Appointed Lecturer in 1986.[4] As of May 2014, with the death of Dr Harry Stopes-Roe, she became the only living Appointed Lecturer. In 2005 Barbara Smoker received the Distinguished Humanist Service Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union. She is also an Honorary Member of Humanists UK.

Smoker lives in southeast London and in 2012 was elected the Honorary life president of the South East London Humanist Group in recognition that she is its last surviving founder member.[5]


  • Good God! a string of verses to tie up the deity (1977) B & T, London, ISBN 0-905934-01-6
  • Atheism on a Soap-Box (1985). London: National Secular Society.
  • Humanism (2017, 7th edition), Barbara Smoker. G. W. Foote & Co. Ltd. ISBN 978-1-911578-04-8 (an introduction to Humanism for secondary education)
  • Blackham's Best (2007, 3rd edition), edited by Barbara Smoker. Published by British Humanist Association. ISBN 978-0-901825-84-1 (Excerpts from the work of Harold John Blackham).
  • Freethoughts (2002), Barbara Smoker. G.W. Foote & Co. ISBN 0-9508243-5-6. (Selections of contributions to The Freethinker).
  • My Godforsaken Life - Memoir of a Maverick (2018) Thornwick Press ISBN 978-1-912664-02-3 (autobiography)



See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In bed with Susan De Muth: Barbara Smoker / Stranglers in the night". The Independent. 14 September 1994. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f MacKillop, I. D. (1986) The British Ethical Societies, p 86, Cambridge University Press, [online] Available from: (Accessed 13 May 2014).
  3. ^ "Kindred organisations, Ethical Record, July/August 1972, p27" (PDF). Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  4. ^ See image of the Appointed Lecturer Board at Conway Hall
  5. ^ "Honorary Life President". Archived from the original on 24 March 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)

External links[edit]