Lives Remembered: Betty Scharf

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The Independent Online

Betty Scharf died peacefully at her home on 25 April, aged 92. She was born on 1 January 1917 as Betty Hinchliff, her all-round abilities revealing themselves early on as she obtained a scholarship to Henrietta Barnett School and shone academically and at sports. A student at LSE in the years leading up to the Second World War, she was already an internationalist, prominent in the League of Nations Society and the Students' Union, leading a delegation to Czechoslovakia in 1937 and taking an active interest in Spain. Her first class B.Econ degree attracted the attention of the psychoanalyst John Bowlby, and she joined him in research for "44 Juvenile Thieves". During the war she lectured in Sociology under Professor Morris Ginsberg at LSE. In 1944 she married Rafael Scharf, a Polish Jew working as a War Crimes Investigator. The marriage lasted until his death in 2003.

Betty Scharf continued to work at LSE, with a break to raise her family, until she retired. She wrote what became a standard textbook, The Sociology of Religion, introduced a course on sex and gender and served for many years as adviser to women students. She fought council elections (Hendon) for the Labour Party in the 1950s, and took up a number of causes with zest, energy and skill: comprehensive education and Freedom from Hunger in the '60s, the Fawcett Society, which she chaired, in the '70s and '80s; and later joined the UNA Religious Advisory Committee. She marched to Stop the War and didn't allow failing eyesight to stop her firing off letters on nuclear arms and the Middle East to the press and politicians. She cared deeply about people and the environment and found her spiritual home with the Unitarians.

Coming from a musical family, Betty was a great lover of classical music, particularly Elgar, and found herself irritated by the imperious words of "Land of Hope and Glory", sung to Elgar's glorious music. In the last couple of years she ran a campaign to have new words written, more in keeping with the times. Her own version, "Lands of Hope and Hazard", has had a few performances and some of Betty's friends will pursue her vision.

She lived first in Golders Green and then in Hampstead Garden Suburb, which she loved, and she was familiar to many who may not have known her name as she walked everywhere at a great pace, determinedly spurning offers of a lift, anxious to fill every day with meaning. Not until the last couple of months of her life did she allow herself to "put her feet up".

She was much admired by family, friends and colleagues for her intellect, her awesome memory and her thoughtfulness, always utterly unpretentious, and will be remembered with love by her three children, five grandchildren, her extended family and many close friends.

Janet Scharf

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