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Castle, Barbara (1910–2002)

Castle, Barbara (1910–2002)

British political leader and writer. Name variations: Baroness of Blackburn. Born Barbara Anne Betts in Chesterfield, England, Oct 6, 1910; died in Buckinghamshire, May 3, 2002; dau. of Frank Betts (government official) and Annie Rebecca (Farrand) Betts; attended St. Hugh's College, Oxford University; m. Edward (Ted) Castle (journalist), 1944 (died 1979).

The most powerful woman in British politics prior to the appointment of Margaret Thatcher as prime minister, began working life as a journalist; representing Labour Party, elected member of House of Commons for Blackburn, an industrial city in Lancashire (1945), serving uninterruptedly until 1979; spent next few years as parliamentary private secretary to the president of the Board of Trade, working 1st for Sir Stafford Cripps, then for Harold Wilson (1947–51); became a well-known personality on the British political stage, speaking out on unpopular issues; was an alternate British delegate to UN General Assembly (1949–50); elected to national executive committee of Labour Party (1950), a post she would also hold until 1979; served as vice-chair of the national executive committee (1957–58), then chair (1958–59); became honorary president of British Anti-Apartheid Movement (1963); held several important ministerial posts (1964–76); appointed minister of Overseas Development (1964), the only woman minister in Wilson's cabinet, then Minister of Transport (1965), then first secretary of state for Employment and Productivity (1968), in effect serving as national chief of labor relations; had a 2nd distinguished career as a member of European Parliament (1979–89); created life peer (1990) with title of Baroness Castle of Blackburn of Ibstone in the County of Buckinghamshire; detailed the nuts and bolts of cabinet decision-making in The Castle Diaries 1964–70, The Castle Diaries 1964–76 and The Castle Diaries 1974–76; also wrote Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst (1987); in 1990s, was one of the surviving legends of Old Labour, a rare blend of the idealistic and pragmatic elements of politics.

See also autobiography, Fighting All the Way (Macmillan, 1993); Wilfred De'ath, Barbara Castle: A Portrait from Life (Clifton, 1970); and Women in World History.

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