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‘How humanist activists shaped society’: event to celebrate 125 years of Humanists UK

Composite image featuring a notice of the arrest of Charlotte Despard, Anne Cobden-Sanderson, and other members of the Women's Freedom League; an lithograph of Charles Bradlaugh's struggle to enter parliament; and suffragists on a deputation to Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith.

On 30 April, Humanists UK will be celebrating its 125th anniversary with a special event featuring historians and humanist activists who together will present a tour of the organisation’s long history of working, successfully, towards a kinder, more rational society.

The event will take place via Zoom on 30 April, exactly 125 years on from when, in 1896, a group of Victorian men and women from all parts of the UK first came together to dream up a national organisation for the promotion of non-religious ethics and a better society: today’s Humanists UK.

In the event, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson and Humanist Heritage Coordinator Madeleine Goodall will be joined by Stef Dickers – chief archivist of the radical history collection at the Bishopsgate Institute – as well as longtime humanist campaigners David Pollock and Diane Munday. Diane’s work in the 1960s was critical in securing legal abortion in Britain. Each will share perspectives and insights on how this cauldron of humanist activists helped drive reform in public services, secure vital civil liberties for women and minorities, and played a key part in many of the most important social movements of the past century.

Humanist Heritage Coordinator Madeleine Goodall commented:

‘Since its foundation in 1896, Humanists UK has been a persistent force against dogma and illiberalism and has changed the country for the better. One of the highlights of exploring our heritage in the run-up to this anniversary has been seeing just how many major social advances of the 20th century were fought for and won by humanists. From reproductive rights to LGBT rights, from divorce to adoption, from healthcare to education: where humanists have won, the country has won.

‘But I’m just as fascinated by some of the unsung heroes we’ve uncovered – the stories less told and the voices less heard. I’m looking forward to the chance to show off some of what we’ve discovered – charting our movement back to the 19th century and revealing how humanist activists shaped society.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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