Madden, Claire (Kathleen May Delacheroise) (1905–98), feminist and political activist, was born 14 October 1905 at Boley House, Coolattin, Co. Wicklow, second child and elder daughter of Thomas Madden – described on her birth certificate as ‘university grinder’ – and his second wife, May (née Glynn), also a teacher. Her given names were Kathleen May Delacheroise, but in later life she preferred to be called ‘Claire’ and wrote under a number of different names. She had an elder brother, Tom, and a younger sister, Mabel Anne Constance; the seven children from their father's first marriage appear to have severed all connections. Her parents, who had married late in life, were both from protestant, Anglo-Irish families, but the names ‘Madden’ and ‘Glynn’ were of Gaelic Irish origin. In later life Claire Madden became a catholic, sought to trace her Irish family history, became proficient in Gaelic, and studied Irish history in great depth. The family lived for a while in Galway before moving to Stockport, Cheshire, where they ran a small private school. The three Madden children were educated by their parents, with a particular emphasis on music and the classics.
Claire Madden became a librarian in Stockport and worked in the public library service for several years before moving to London with her mother and sister, living for a period at 182 Whitton Avenue, Greenford, Middlesex. She was employed in the London Library Service at Willesden, where she became the branch librarian. As a professional librarian of standing and distinction, she later became a fellow of the Royal College of Librarians. She also became a book collector and scholar, gradually amassing an impressive personal library devoted mainly to Irish, classical, and literary material.
Madden was an Irish nationalist and Sinn Féin sympathiser from the 1920s. In the 1930s she became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) as well as being active in a number of feminist organisations. The Six Point Group, founded by Dorothy Evans, was a non-party-political organisation dedicated to a better deal for women; the ‘six points’ included political, occupational, moral, social, economic, and legal equality. Evans had deliberately borne a child outside marriage, an institution she rejected on principle. Madden, her disciple and biographer, decided to follow Evans's example – a brave decision in the 1930s. In 1938 she became pregnant and travelled to Dublin, where she stayed with a doctor friend until her daughter Etain was born on 8 January 1939.
In the 1940s Madden became more active in the communist party and also became secretary to the Six Point Group. She left the library service when a less qualified man was promoted ahead of her, and became librarian at the Daily Worker (later the Morning Star), remaining in this position until the 1960s. Madden, as secretary and organiser to the Group, was responsible for a number of publications, letters, and statements to the press. During the later 1940s she became interested in the idea of the ‘coupled vote’, which was supported by George Bernard Shaw (qv). It was clear that female suffrage, granted in 1918, had had little impact on British politics, and the suggestion was that political representation should involve couples (men and women) rather than individuals, leading to equal representation in parliament. Madden corresponded with Shaw on the subject and he persuaded her to write a pamphlet. This was published by the Six Point Group and is quoted at length by Dora Russell in her autobiography The tamarisk tree (iii, 121–2) and by Shaw in the preface to one of his plays.
During the 1950s and 1960s Madden travelled to Russia on several occasions leading CPGB delegations. On one trip she returned with a large consignment of caviar, which was sold to the Savoy Hotel to assist party funds. She also travelled extensively in Ireland and purchased a cottage in Galway city. She was an active member of the Connolly Association, giving support to Desmond Greaves (qv), as well as being a member of Sinn Féin; she wrote numerous articles for An Phoblacht, the Sinn Féin newspaper, on various aspects of the campaign for Irish unity. Many of her articles on Irish issues had a feminist aspect and she was especially interested in the position of women in ancient Irish society. She observed, inter alia, that Gaelic women did not assume their husband's names on marriage.
Her daughter Etain Madden (1939–82) studied philosophy at King's College, London, and was active in a number of political and feminist causes. She was secretary of Fulham CP and active in the anti-Vietnam-war and Irish nationalist organisations; she was associated with Pat Arrowsmith in the Stop the War Committee during the early 1970s and involved in many political demonstrations; she carried a large Irish tricolour in the London March of Protest against Bloody Sunday (1972). Etain later became manager of the Housing Aid Service for Hammersmith and Fulham. She married (18 October 1968) Dr Fritz Arnholz , born 12 October 1897 into a wealthy Austrian Jewish merchant family, who had qualified in medicine in Berlin in 1924 and practised there for fifteen years. Most of his family perished under the Nazi regime, but he escaped to England and worked in military hospitals in the RAMC. In 1949 he joined a medical practice in Fulham which he ran until his death. A few months before his marriage to Etain, he was diagnosed as suffering from terminal cancer; he died 31 December 1968. He was an accomplished pianist and a dedicated and expert collector of prints and engravings. His collection, which especially features Hogarths and Bewicks, was donated by Claire Madden in the early 1980s to the Irish Gallery of Modern Art at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin (where it can be viewed as the Arnholtz-Madden collection). This was arranged by the novelist John Banville, who had been a close friend of Etain.
In April 1979 Etain was told by Sir Roger Bannister, her physician: ‘You have multiple sclerosis and there is nothing I can do about it’. She died in 1982. Claire Madden continued to live at 75 Bedford Road, East Finchley, until her death on 15 October 1998. Her papers, including her correspondence with Shaw, have been presented to the National Library of Women, Old Castle St., London E1, which also holds the records of the Six Point Group, along with a large and unique collection of feminist literature and archives, including the papers of the British suffragette movement. These are housed in a new building in Old Castle St., financed by the Millennium Lottery Fund and London Guildhall University.