Katharine Conway, the daughter of the Samuel Conway and Amy Curling, was born on 25th September, 1867. Her father was a Congregational parson in Chipping Ongar, but when Katharine was a child the family moved to Walthamstow.
The Conways held progressive views and Katharine received an education equivalent to that of her brothers. After being educated at home by her mother until the age of ten, Katharine went to the Hackney Downs High School for Girls.
Amy Conway died in 1881 after giving birth to her seventh child. This was a devastating blow as Katharine was very close to her mother. She later told Ramsay MacDonald: "I was 12 when my mother died and until my father married again when I was nearly 16 I had no home happiness at all. His grief and loneliness put out the sunshine for us children. And the second wife was tenderly good to us."
At the age of nineteen, Katharine began her studies at Newnham College, Cambridge. At university Katharine came under the influence of the militant feminist, Helen Gladstone, the youngest daughter of Herbert Gladstone. Katharine also met Olive Schreiner, a woman who "encouraged every bit of courageous aspiration or rebellion she found in us." She finished her studies in 1889 and she was officially placed second in her College Tripos though Gladstone claimed she really come top. At that time Cambridge University did not grant woman degrees but for the rest of her life she always placed the initials B.A. after her name.
Katharine found work as a Classics mistress at Redland High School in Bristol. One Sunday in November, 1890, Katharine was on her way to church when she encountered a demonstration by low-paid women workers. Katharine asked the women about their problems and it was later claimed that it was the discussion with these women that converted her to socialism. Soon after this incident, Katharine joined the Bristol Socialist Society.
Most of the members of the Socialist Society were supporters of H. H. Hyndman and the Social Democratic Federation. Katharine found their views too revolutionary and left to join the Bristol Fabian Society. Uncomfortable with her position teaching at a selective school, Katharine resigned and took a job at a board school in St Philips, a working class district of Bristol.
In 1891 the Fabian Society began to arrange for members to travel around the country giving lecturers on Socialism. At the Fabian meetings Katharine impressed local members with her ability to argue the case for socialism that that it was suggested that she should become a Fabian lecturer. Over the next few months Katharine attracted large crowds to hear her talk on subjects such as Socialism and the Home, The Religion of Socialism and Why Working Women Want the Vote? One member commented: "It is possible that Katharine Conway was getting more applause than a woman less young and attractive might have got but that was all doing good to Socialism. She has a peculiar magnetic influence over her audiences, and larger audiences could be drawn for her than for almost any other lecturer."
At these meetings Katharine came into contact with important figures in the Fabian Society including Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, George Bernard Shaw and Robert Blatchford. Shaw proposed marriage but Katharine told him that she intended dedicating her life to socialism. Katharine also met Edward Hulton, who recruited her to write for his radical newspaper, the Manchester Sunday Chronicle.
In the autumn of 1892 Katharine attended the Trades Union Congress (TUC) meeting in Glasgow. One of those who heard her speak was Bruce Glasier, one of the leaders of the socialist movement in Scotland. They quickly became close friends and married on 21st June, 1893. George Bernard Shaw sent his congratulations reminding Katherine of what he had previously said about marriage and children. Katherine wrote back explaining she did not intend to have any children. Shaw replied with a postcard: "Invite me to the christening."
Katharine continued to lecture on socialism but had become critical of the Fabian Society approach to political change. Katharine was a Christian Socialist who once said that to her, "socialism was the economic expression of Christianity". The recently formed, Independent Labour Party, was led by Christians such as James Keir Hardie, Tom Mann, Ben Tillett and Philip Snowden. In 1893 Katharine joined the ILP and it was not long before she became the only woman on the party's National Administrative Council.
When Katharine and Bruce married they agreed not to have children so that they could devote the rest of their lives to the socialist cause. However, in 1896 Bruce Glasier and Emmeline Pankhurst were charged with speaking at an illegal meeting. Katharine was with Emmeline when she returned home after being found not guilty. Katharine was later to say that it was seeing Harry Pankhurst embrace his mother after discovering that she was not to be sent to prison, that convinced her to have children. Her daughter, Jeannie, was born the following year.
Despite being a mother, Katharine Glasier continued to tour the country making speeches on socialism. In 1900 she lectured in over thirty different towns. Bruce Glasier was also in great demand as he had recently been elected as chairman of the Independent Labour Party.
Katharine continued to write and as well as having a regular column in the ILP newspaper The Labour Leader, she contributed to other socialist journals and newspapers such as The Labour Womanand The Workman's Times. Katharine also wrote a feminist novel, Marget: A Twentieth-Century Novel and Tales from the Derbyshire, a collection of short-stories.
Katharine was not active in the women's suffrage movement. She disagreed with the NUWSS policy of a limited women's suffrage bill and totally disapproved of the militant tactics used by the WSPU. Like most members of the Independent Labour Party, Katharine supported the campaign for complete adult suffrage.
In 1916 Katharine Glasier became editor of the Labour Leader. The anti-war stand that its previous editor, Fenner Brockway, took was continued. At first this caused sales to slump but this eventually attracted a larger readership from young people disillusioned by the war. By the summer of 1917 sales of the newspaper under Katharine's editorship, reached an all-time peak of 51,000. The Independent Labour Party was so pleased that they raised her salary from £2.17.0 to £3.5.0 a week. As editor she clashed with Philip Snowden over his anti-Bolshevik writings.
Helen Wilkinson heard her speak during this period: "It was a memorable meeting. I got a seat in the front row of the gallery. It seemed noisy to me, whose sole experience of meetings was of religious services. Rows of men filled the platform. But my eyes were riveted on a small slim woman her hair simply coiled into her neck, Katherine Glasier.... To stand on a platform of the Free Trade Hall, to be able to sway a great crowd, to be able to make people work to make life better, to remove slums and underfeeding and misery just because one came and spoke to them about it - that seemed the highest destiny any women could ever hope for."
After the death of Bruce Glasier in 1920 Katharine continued to work for the Independent Labour Party. Katharine joined the Society of Friends and sent her son Glen to the Quaker school at Ackworth. Glen Glasier was a brilliant scholar who had just been awarded a scholarship to Oxford University when he was killed while playing football in 1928. Her son's death inspired the writing of The Glen Book.
Other political campaigns that Katharine was involved in included the fight for pit-head baths for miners and the abolition of the Poor Law. A close friend of Margaret MacMillan, the two women worked together in the fight for school meals and nursery education. Later Katharine was to play a major role in the forming of the Save the Children Fund.
Katharine Glasier was appalled by the behaviour of her old ILP colleagues, James Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden in 1931. However, when the ILP broke away in 1932 Katharine remained with the Labour Party and continued to be active in the movement.
After the first majority Labour Government was formed in July, 1945, she wrote in her diary "the joy of the Harvest". Katharine still had the energy to campaign for causes she believed in. This included forming the Margaret McMillan Memorial Fund that raised nearly a quarter of a million to build the Margaret McMillan Training College at Bradford.
In 1947 Katharine celebrated her eighty birthday by giving a lecture to over a thousand people at the Bradford Co-operative Assembly Hall on her most popular subject: The Religion of Socialism.
Katharine Glasier died on 14th June, 1950. Her home, Glen Cottage, in the village of Earby, where she lived from 1922 until her death on 14 June 1950, was preserved in her memory by the labour movement.