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Betty Boothroyd

Betty Boothroyd

Baroness Boothroyd was Chancellor of The Open University from 1995 to 2006.

Born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, on 8 October 1929, to Archibald and Mary Boothroyd, textile workers, Betty Boothroyd was educated at council schools and went on to study at Dewsbury College of Commerce and Art. In the 1940s, Betty Boothroyd enjoyed a career as a dancer, but she decided to follow a career in politics instead, having been a member of the Labour Party since her teens.

During the 1950s, Betty Boothroyd spent time working in the House of Commons as a secretary and political assistant to various Members of Parliament, including Barbara Castle. She contested parliamentary seats at Leicester South East (1957) and Peterborough (1959) before travelling to the United States in 1960 to witness the Kennedy campaign. She subsequently began work in Washington as a legislative assistant for an American congressman, 1960-1962.

When Betty Boothroyd returned to London she continued her work as secretary and political assistant to various senior Labour politicians. In 1965 she was elected to a seat on Hammersmith Borough Council, where she remained until 1968.

Betty Boothroyd's aim was still to gain a seat in Parliament and she contested seats in Nelson and Colne (1968) and Rossendale (1970) before winning a seat in 1973 as the Labour candidate for West Bromwich, later to become West Bromwich West, a position she retained until 2000.

Betty Boothroyd's career then flourished. In 1974 she was appointed an assistant Government Whip and she was a Member of the European Parliament from 1975 to 1977. In 1979 she became a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, until 1981, and of the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen, until 1987. She was also a member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee from 1981 to 1987 and the House of Commons Commission from 1983 to 1987.

In 1987 Betty Boothroyd was elected Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, the first Labour woman to be voted in as Deputy Speaker. In 1992 she was elected Speaker, the first ever female Speaker, with a majority of 134 votes over Peter Brooke. She retained this position until her retirement in 2000. In 2001 she was created a Life Peer, taking as her title Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell in the West Midlands.