Barbara Castle

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Barbara Anne Castle, Baroness Castle of Blackburn (née Betts), PC, GCOT (6 October 1910 – 3 May 2002) was a British left-wing politician.

Elected to Parliament in 1945, she rose to become one of the most important Labour party politicians of the twentieth century. Until her record was broken in 2007 by Gwyneth Dunwoody, Barbara Castle held the record as the female MP with the longest continuous service. She is the first, and to date the only woman to have held the office of First Secretary of State.

Contents

Early life

The youngest of three children, she was born at 67 Derby Road, Chesterfield to Frank and Annie Betts, and raised in Pontefract and Bradford.

Castle was introduced to socialist politics and beliefs from a young age. She grew up in a politically active family home where there was "always someone sleeping on the sofa". Her older sister Marjorie later became a pioneer of the Inner London Education Authority, while her brother Jimmie engaged in field work with Oxfam in Nigeria. She joined the Labour Party at a young age.

Her father was a tax inspector, avoiding military service in World War I due to his high rank in a valued occupation (known as a reserved occupation). It was because of the nature of the tax collecting profession, and the different promotions he received that the family moved around the country on different occasions. Having moved to Bradford in 1922, the Castle family swiftly became involved in the city's activity with the Independent Labour Party, though her father was prohibited from formal political activity because of his role as a civil servant, he became editor of the Bradford Pioneer, the city's socialist newspaper, after William Leech was elected to Parliament in the 1933 general election.[1][2]

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