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First woman Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd Dead at 93


The first female speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd passed away on February 26, 2023, parliamentary authorities said Monday. Boothroyd was 93.

Lady Boothroyd was born on October 1929, in Dewsbury, Yorkshire. The former Labour MP was speaker from 1992 until her retirement in 2000.

She was the first person to be elected to the role after the Commons debates began being permanently televised in 1989.

Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd Dead at 93.

She grew up in a working-class family in Dewsbury and became active in politics at a young age as her mom was a member of the women’s section of the Labour party.

She served as the MP for West Bromwich West, formerly West Bromwich, from 1973 until 2000 and was made a life peer in the House of Lords after retirement from the Commons.

After moving to London in the 1950s, Boothroyd worked for two influential Labour MPs, Geoffrey de Freitas, and Barbara Castle.

The current Commons speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, has led touching tributes to Boothroyd, describing Boothroyd as an inspirational woman and politician who stuck by the rules and will be remembered forever for her good humor and charm.

He said: “Not only was Betty Boothroyd an inspiring woman, but she was also an inspirational politician, and someone I was proud to call my friend.

“To be the first woman speaker was truly groundbreaking and Betty certainly broke that glass ceiling with panache. She was from Yorkshire, and I am from Lancashire – so there was always that friendly rivalry between us.

Hoyle continued: “But from my point of view, it was heartening to hear a northern voice speaking from the chair. She stuck by the rules, had a no-nonsense style, but any reprimands she did issue were done with good humor and charm.

“Betty was one of a kind. A sharp, witty, and formidable woman – and I will miss her,” Hoyle added.

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Betty Boothroyd Passed Away at 93

Boothroyd passed away at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge at the age of 93. Her passing was announced the following day by Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House.

Boothroyd modernized the Commons speaker role as she rejected to wear the traditional white wig, and assured her successors would be able to choose whether to do so.

Although, in one of her more controversial moments, Boothroyd banned MPs from breastfeeding their babies during select committee meetings and set a similar ban in the Commons public gallery.

Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd Dead at 93.

Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, described Betty as a magnificent parliamentarian and said it was a joy to see Betty around the Commons until recently.

Rishi Sunak said Betty was a wonderful woman who dedicated her life to politics. He continued: “The passion, wit, and sense of fairness she brought to politics will not be forgotten. My thoughts go out to her family.”

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, wrote: “Betty Boothroyd was an incredible and inspirational woman. As a speaker, she was at the forefront of a generation that smashed the glass ceiling for female politicians.

“She made the role her own, with a wit and style that will never be replicated. Betty was a dedicated and devoted public servant who will be dearly missed by all who knew her.”

Starmer added: “My thoughts – and the thoughts of the Labour party – are with all her many friends and family.”

Charlotte Nichols, the Labour MP for Warrington North, said she was absolutely sad to hear the devastating news, adding: “She was my idol as a small child and the reason I got interested in politics.”

She said that she has only seen Betty once in Westminster and was too awestruck to even introduce herself, and now she regrets that she will never have that opportunity.

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