Betty Boothroyd: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 The Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell 

In office
27 April 1992 – 23 October 2000
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Bernard Weatherill
Succeeded by Michael Martin

Member of Parliament
for West Bromwich West
In office
28 February 1974 – 23 October 2000
Preceded by Constituency Established
Succeeded by Adrian Bailey

Member of Parliament
for West Bromwich
In office
24 May 1973 – 28 February 1974
Preceded by Maurice Foley
Succeeded by Constituency Abolished

Born 8 October 1929 (1929-10-08) (age 80)
Dewsbury, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party Labour

Betty Boothroyd, Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell OM, PC (born 8 October 1929) is a British Labour politician, who served as Member of Parliament for West Bromwich and West Bromwich West from 1973 to 2000 and was the first, and to date only, female Speaker of the British House of Commons between 1992 and 2000.


Early life

Boothroyd was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, in 1929, to Archibald and Mary Boothroyd, textile workers. She was educated at council schools and went on to study at Dewsbury College of Commerce and Art. In the 1940s, she enjoyed a career as a dancer, as a member of the Tiller Girls dancing troupe in her younger years.[1] Betty was known as the "Baroness Speaker".

Boothroyd contested parliamentary seats at Leicester South East (1957 by-election) and Peterborough (1959) before travelling to the United States in 1960 to see the Kennedy campaign. She subsequently began work in Washington as a legislative assistant for an American Congressman, Silvio Conte, between 1960 and 1962. When she 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, in Gibbs Green ward, where she remained until 1968.

Member of Parliament

She contested several seats: Leicester South East in 1957, Peterborough in 1959, Nelson and Colne in 1968, and Rossendale in 1970.

She entered Parliament as the Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for West Bromwich in a by-election in 1973. Boothroyd's career then flourished. In 1974 she was appointed an assistant Government Whip and she was a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 1975-1977. 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 (NEC) from 1981-1987 and the House of Commons Commission from 1983-1987.

Deputy Speaker and Speaker

She became a Deputy Speaker in 1987. In 1992 she was elected Speaker, being the first woman ever to hold the position. She was not the first woman to sit in the Speaker's Chair, however; that honour fell to Betty Harvie Anderson, a Deputy Speaker from 1970 to 1973. There was some debate as to whether or not Boothroyd should wear the traditional Speaker's wig upon her election. In the end she did not, and the tradition was ended, although as Boothroyd herself has admitted, the practice would return if subsequent Speakers chose to wear the wig [2]; so far none have chosen to do so. In 1993, the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty was carried due to her casting vote. However, her casting vote was not in fact required, as the votes of ordinary MPs had been miscounted.[3] Boothroyd was keen to get young people interested in politics, and in the 1990s even made an appearance as a special guest on the BBCs Saturday morning children's programe Live & Kicking.

Retirement and Life Peer

Boothroyd stepped down in 2000, and resigned as an MP, being succeeded by Michael Martin as Speaker.

Boothroyd was Chancellor of the Open University from 1994 until October 2006 and has donated some of her personal papers to the University's archives. She is an Honorary Fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford. In March 1995 she was awarded an Honorary Degree from the Open University as Doctor of the University.

In 2001 she was created a Life Peer, taking as her title Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell in the West Midlands, and her autobiography was published in the same year. In April 2005 she was appointed to the Order of Merit, an honour which is in the personal gift of the Queen.

Betty Boothroyd is also the Patron of the Jo Richardson Community School in Dagenham, Essex, England.

Personal life

She is unmarried and has no children. She has remained physically active, taking up paragliding while on holiday in Cyprus in her sixties. She has described the hobby as both "lovely and peaceful" and "exhilarating". She has long held an interest in lighting and became an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Light & Lighting (SLL) in 2009.


  1. ^ "Betty Boothroyd: To Parliament and beyond". BBC Online. 2001-10-24. Retrieved 2009-01-21.  
  2. ^ BBC Parliament coverage of the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons, 22 June 2009
  3. ^ "Madam Speaker's career". BBC News. 12 July 2000. Retrieved 2008-06-30.  


  • Betty Boothroyd: The Autobiography. Publisher: Century (4 Oct 2001). ISBN 0712679480

External links

Offices held

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Maurice Foley
Member of Parliament for West Bromwich
1973Feb 1974
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for West Bromwich West
Feb 19742000
Succeeded by
Adrian Bailey
Preceded by
Sir Paul Dean
Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
1987 – 1992
Succeeded by
Dame Janet Fookes
Preceded by
Bernard Weatherill
Speaker of the House of Commons
1992 – 2000
Succeeded by
Michael Martin
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Lord Briggs
Chancellor of the Open University
1994 – 2006
Succeeded by
The Lord Puttnam

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