Barbara Smoker was born in London in 1923 into a Roman Catholic family. She served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service from 1942-45, mainly in south-east Asia. In 1949 she became an atheist. In 1951 she joined the South Place Ethical Society, in the course of time taking on all the major roles in the Society, becoming in1986 the Society’s only female Appointed Lecturer.
She was elected President of the National Secular Society in 1971 until 1996, representing the atheist viewpoint in print, on lecture platforms, speaking tours and on radio and television. A forceful debater, she was active in many social campaigns including abolition of the death penalty, prison reform, CND, the legalisation of abortion and for voluntary euthanasia.
Barbara was an early officiant at non-religious funerals, wedding ceremonies, and gay and lesbian commitments. In 2005, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Her publications include Humanism (6th edition 2014), an introduction for secondary pupils, and Freethoughts (2002), being selections of her contributions to The Freethinker journal.