A Dewsbury Great.
One of a select group of individuals born, bred or living in Dewsbury who have made their mark on their town and country. The Dewsbury Greats have featured in various exhibitions and publications since they were first researched and published in 1992.
The girl from Eastborough who became the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons
DEWSBURY girl and Labour M P Betty Boothroyd stepped into the history books on 27th April 1992 by becoming the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons.
She beat five top Tories for the position and was elected by a resounding vote of 372 to 238 with support from all parties.
News of her historic appointment was relayed around the world, the Union .lack was hoisted from Dewsbury Town Hall and local people basked in the reflected glory of their most famous daughter.
Miss Boothroyd’s appointment made her the second highest commoner in the land and the second highest paid public servant
The girl who was born in a back-to-back house in Eastborough moved into a luxury apartment in Westminster Palace and inherited a State coach, the oldest In the land.
At the time of her appointment Miss Boothroyd was 62 and had been Labour MP for West Bromwich West for more than 20 years and Deputy Speaker for four. Her resounding victory was loudly applauded by the entire chamber and witnessed on television by millions worldwide.
Miss Boothroyd, whose parents were weavers in local mills, thanked the House for the very great honour it had bestowed on her. “I pray that I shall justify its confidence and I pledge that I shall do all in my power to preserve the Speakership and its traditions." she said.
BETTY Boothroyd was an only child of working-class parents and learned her socialist principles the hard way. While she was still a young girl at Eastborough School, her father, Archibald Boothroyd, lost his job at a local mill for espousing his socialist beliefs.
A vocal official of the local textile union, he was forced to look for work outside the area and eventually found employment at a mill in Sowerby Bridge. A man of strong principles, he preferred to travel daily by tram to this new employment, getting up at the crack of dawn and returning late at night, rather than be
silenced about his beliefs.
Miss Boothroyd followed in her father’s political footsteps and at 16 became an active member of the Labour League of Youth. At 21 she made her first attempt at politics and stood for Trinity North ward in the old Municipal elections, hut was not successful. But her defeat was the start of a determined 20-year struggle which was rewarded in 1973 when she became MP for West Bromwich West alter contesting five General Elections.
Miss Boothroyd's determination not to give in earned her the nickname “Battling Betty” and endeared her to many high ranking stalwarts of the Labour Party to which she was devoted. Before entering Parliament, Miss Boothroyd had worked as a secretary for various MPs, including Labour MP Miss Barbara Castle, who was Education Secretary at the time.
Over the years she mixed with the highest in the land hut she never forgot her roots and returned to Dewsbury often to visit her widowed mother and other relatives.
When her appointment was announced friends in Dewsbury said fame would never change her. They pledged that the girl, who in school reports was described as a “trier” would never forget where she came from. They knew that money and fame would not turn the head of the girl who earned £1 a week as an office worker in Dewsbury after leaving the local technical college.
Fame hasn't changed her
MOST of Miss Boothroyd’s classmates from Eastborough School stayed in Dewsbury, married and had children. But Betty had politics in her blood and thoughts of marriage took second place.
She once said "It would have been nice to have married and had a family but I was never asked at the right time ”
But Miss Boothroyd appreciated the benefits of family life and regularly came back to the security of her home and family in Dewsbury
Her goddaughter Mrs Jacky Martinez who lives in Dewsbury, said Miss Boothroyd had never changed and still associated herself with the working classes and still retained many of her northern ways "She has
worked hard to get where she is and she did it without any private education." she said
Dewsbury Councillor Jack Brooke, who was Mayor of Kirklees when Miss Boothroyd's appointment as Speaker was announced, sent congratulations on behalf of local people.
He said of her "She is a daughter of Dewsbury and we are proud of her. She has shown the world that ordinary working-class people am reach any height if they have the dermination and commitment *
Betty Boothroyd passed away on 26 Feb 2023 at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge at the age of 93.