69 Facts About Barbara Castle


Barbara Castle remains to date the only woman to have held the office of First Secretary of State.

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Graduate of the University of Oxford, Barbara Castle worked as a journalist for both Tribune and the Daily Mirror, before being elected to Parliament as MP for Blackburn at the 1945 election.

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Barbara Castle was a strong supporter of Wilson during his campaign to become Leader of the Labour Party, and following his victory at the 1964 election, Wilson appointed Castle to the Cabinet as Minister for Overseas Development, and later as Minister of Transport.

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In 1968, Wilson promoted Barbara Castle to become First Secretary of State, the second-most senior member of the Cabinet, as well as Secretary of State for Employment.

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Barbara Castle was notable for her successful intervention over the strike by Ford sewing machinists against gender pay discrimination, speaking out in support of the strikers, and overseeing the passage of the Equal Pay Act.

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Barbara Castle was a prominent opponent of Britain's continued membership of the European Economic Community during the 1975 referendum.

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Barbara Castle became a member of the House of Lords, having been granted a life peerage, in 1990, and remained active in politics until her death in 2002 at the age of 91.

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Barbara Castle Anne Betts was born on 6 October 1910 at 64 Derby Road, Chesterfield, the youngest of three children to Frank Betts and his wife Annie Rebecca .

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Barbara Castle's mother ran the family home while operating a soup kitchen for the town's coalminers.

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Barbara Castle attended Love Lane Elementary School, then Pontefract and District Girls High School.

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Barbara Castle became involved in acting at the school and developed oratorical skills.

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Barbara Castle excelled academically, winning numerous awards from the school.

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Barbara Castle organised mock elections at the school, in which she stood as the Labour candidate.

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Barbara Castle began serious political activity at Oxford, serving as the Treasurer of the Oxford University Labour Club, the highest position a woman could hold in the club at the time.

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Barbara Castle was scornful of the elitist nature of some elements of the institution, branding the Oxford Union "that cadet class of the establishment".

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Barbara Castle was elected to St Pancras Metropolitan Borough Council in 1937, and in 1943 she spoke at the annual Labour Party Conference for the first time.

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Barbara Castle became a reporter on the left-wing magazine Tribune, where she had a romantic relationship with William Mellor, who was to become its editor, until his death in 1942.

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Barbara Castle had secured her place as a parliamentary candidate through the women of the Blackburn Labour Party, who had threatened to quit unless she was added to the otherwise all-male shortlist.

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Immediately upon her entering the House of Commons Barbara Castle was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade, who had known her as a member of the pre-war Socialist League.

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Barbara Castle soon achieved a reputation as a left-winger and a rousing speaker.

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Wilson had selected his core Cabinet four months prior to the election; Barbara Castle knew Wilson intended to place her within his Cabinet, which would make her the fourth woman in British history ever to hold position in a Cabinet, after Margaret Bondfield, Ellen Wilkinson and Florence Horsbrugh.

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Barbara Castle entered the Cabinet as the first Minister for Overseas Development, a newly created ministry for which she, alongside the Fabian Society, had drawn up the plans for.

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Barbara Castle's plans were extensive, though the ministry's budget was modest.

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Barbara Castle set about trying to divert powers from other departments related to overseas aid, including the Foreign Office and the Treasury.

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Barbara Castle was only partially successful in her aims and provoked an internal Whitehall dispute in the process.

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In June 1965 Barbara Castle announced interest-free aid loans would be available to certain countries.

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Barbara Castle had previously criticised the Conservative government for granting loans that only waived up to the first seven years of interest, which she considered to be counter-intuitive.

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Barbara Castle grappled with Callaghan and Brown over the department's budgetary allocation; they reached a compromise following Wilson's intervention, but the sum only amounted to a small increase in spending.

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In February 1966, Barbara Castle addressed Parliament, calling for "a profound change in public attitudes" to curtail increasing road fatality figures, stating: "Hitler did not manage to kill as many civilians in Britain as have been killed on our roads since the war".

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Barbara Castle introduced the breathalyser to combat the then recently acknowledged crisis of drink-driving.

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Barbara Castle said she was "ready to risk unpopularity" by introducing the measures if it meant saving lives.

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Barbara Castle urged New York's Transport Commissioner to adopt the same policy, describing plans for more roadways as "self-defeating", stating the solution was "more and better mass transit systems".

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Barbara Castle sanctioned the construction of the Humber Bridge, which was the world's longest suspension bridge upon its opening in 1981.

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Harold Wilson invoked Barbara Castle to find the necessary funding and promise the bridge's construction as an 'election sweetener'.

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Barbara Castle was never far from controversy which reached a fever pitch when the trade unions rebelled against her proposals to reduce their powers in her 1969 white paper, 'In Place of Strife'.

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Barbara Castle helped make history when she intervened in the Ford sewing machinists' strike of 1968, in which the women of the Dagenham Ford Plant demanded to be paid the same as their male counterparts.

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Barbara Castle helped resolve the strike, which resulted in a pay rise for Ford's female workers bringing them to 92 per cent of what the men received.

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Barbara Castle was devastated and although he was supportive of his wife's achievements, he considered himself a failure compared to her.

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Barbara Castle sought to remove private "pay beds" from the NHS, in conflict with the British Medical Association.

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Barbara Castle recorded in her diary and in her subsequent autobiography that Wilson summoned her to Downing Street where he angrily accused her of disloyalty and that, as he had brought her back into the cabinet against others' wishes and advice, he deserved better from her.

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Barbara Castle claimed she offered to resign, but Wilson calmed down and she continued to campaign for leaving in the referendum.

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In 1975, Barbara Castle introduced the Child Benefit Act, superseding the Family Allowances Act 1945.

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Barbara Castle ensured child benefit would be paid directly to mothers, not fathers, unlike Family Allowance, the previous system in place.

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Barbara Castle remained in cabinet until Wilson's resignation in March 1976.

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The head of the Downing Street policy unit, Bernard Donoughue, records in his diary that he warned Wilson that Barbara Castle's dogged pursuit of personal policy stances on public health would "wreck the NHS".

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Barbara Castle lost her place as a Cabinet minister when her bitter political enemy James Callaghan succeeded Wilson as prime minister following a leadership election.

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Barbara Castle was angry to discover that Wilson had broken a private confidence in informing Callaghan that she had intended to retire from the cabinet before the next election.

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Barbara Castle represented Greater Manchester North from 1979 to 1984, and was then elected to represent Greater Manchester West from 1984 to 1989.

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Barbara Castle was at that time the only British MEP to have held a cabinet position.

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Barbara Castle served as vice-chair of the Socialist Group, a member of the Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, and a member of the Delegation for Relations with Malta.

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Barbara Castle Diaries were published in two volumes in 1980 and 1984, chronicling her time in office from 1964 to 1976 and providing insights into the workings of cabinet government.

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Barbara Castle remained active in politics up until her death, attacking the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, at the Labour party conference in 2001 for his refusal to link pensions to earnings.

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Barbara Castle was a critic of Blairism and "New Labour", in particular on economic policy, which she perceived as involving acceptance of "market economics, unchallenged globalisation and the dominance of the multinationals".

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Barbara Castle accused Blairites of distorting and dismissing the Labour Party's past, stating in an interview published in the New Statesman in 2000, the year of the party's centenary:.

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Barbara Castle died of pneumonia and chronic lung disease at Hell Corner Farm, her home in Ibstone, Buckinghamshire, on 3 May 2002.

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Barbara Castle has been acknowledged as the most important female Labour politician of the 20th century.

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An adept and gripping orator, Barbara Castle gained a reputation as a strong-willed, sometimes single-minded crusader.

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Barbara Castle makes excellent television and was a good Commons speaker.

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Barbara Castle was admired by Bill Deedes, Conservative politician and editor of The Daily Telegraph, for "her astonishing tenacity, her capacity for getting her own way in Cabinet and nearly everywhere else, " though he derided her politics.

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Variously described as sophisticated, stylish and glamorous, Barbara Castle was characterised as vain, while her critics called her egocentric.

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In 2008, Barbara Castle was named by The Guardian as one of four of "Labour's greatest heroes" and in 2016 she was named on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour Power List as one of seven women judged to have had the biggest impact on women's lives over the past 70 years, alongside Margaret Thatcher, Helen Brook, Germaine Greer, Jayaben Desai, Bridget Jones, and Beyonce.

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Barbara Castle is caught in mid-stride as she carries a copy of the Equal Pay Act 1970.

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Barbara Castle was commemorated on a postage stamp issued as part of the Royal Mail's Women of Distinction series in 2008 for piloting the Equal Pay Act through parliament.

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Barbara Castle was portrayed by British actress Miranda Richardson in the 2010 film Made in Dagenham, dealing with the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham assembly plant.

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Barbara Castle was later portrayed by stage actress Sophie-Louise Dann in the 2014 West End musical adaptation of the film.

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Barbara Castle was a recipient of the Order of the Companions of O R Tambo in Silver, a South African award to foreign nationals for friendship with that country.

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Barbara Castle was an active supporter of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Britain from the very start of its existence.

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In 1990 Barbara Castle received a Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for "services to European democracy".

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In 2002 Barbara Castle was posthumously awarded an honorary doctorate by the Open University for public service in areas of special educational concern to the university.

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