As the campaigning group Liberty turns 80, authors and campaigners have been paying tribute to those who have supported the group’s work down the decades, among them H G Wells, George Orwell and Vera Brittain, an alumna of Somerville College.
Vera Brittain, who the College will be commemmorating as part of the World War One anniversary this year, matriculated at Somerville College in 1914. After a year of studies she left to become a nurse, only returning to her studies after the War.
Founded in 1934 in the wake of the National Hunger March of 1932, Vera Brittain was one of a handful of distinguished founding members of Liberty – others included Clement Attlee and E. M. Forster.
The organisation exists to lobby for the protection of civil liberties and human rights. Its current director is Shami Chakrabarti, who named Vera Brittain as one of the great figures of Liberty’s history in an article in the Guardian.
Vera Brittain’s war-memoir Testament of Youth is considered one of the greatest portraits of life during World War One. After the War, she promoted the League of Nations and later became a committed pacifist, joining the Peace Pledge Union. She worked tirelessly for their food campaign and other causes, and as editor of Peace News wrote against apartheid, colonialism and the development of nuclear weapons.