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Born Barbara Samson in London, she came from a close Jewish family of uncles, aunts and cousins. After a peripatetic early education, she graduated in maths and philosophy from Bedford College.
Her father had died when she was two, and her uncle, the Labour MP Ian Mikardo, became something of a surrogate father to her and greatly influenced her lifelong commitment to socialism, education and the welfare state.
She joined the Communist Party in her youth and married Julian Tayler, also a Communist Party member and a city architect for the post war progressive Labour council in the city of Coventry. Her mother-in-law was a stalwart Communist in Coventry, Annie Tayler.
In 1960 as a part-time job with Pictorial Charts Educational Trust, a non-profit-making organisation producing wall charts for schools, went on to become her sole career in educational publishing.
Barbara was an inveterate protestor during the 1960s to 1980s. She was a keen supporter of Medical Aid for Vietnam, CND, at Greenham Common and was much involved in educational publishing.
She was involved in the writing of a book, Growing Old Disgracefully (1993). Another book, Disgracefully Yours (1995), international tours, radio and television appearances, conferences, and a 1996 BBC documentary film followed.
Her marriage to Julian Tayler ended in divorce in 1977, though they remained close friends and had many children and grandchildren, to whom she was "Barbie". She died aged 80 after a long period of illness.
Sources: The Guardian, Tuesday 31 January 2012; information from John Green