On this day in 1992, The House of Commons elected Betty Boothroyd as Speaker, the first time a woman held the post in its 700-year history. The Labour MP for West Bromwich West beat out Conservatives Peter Brooke and Sir Giles Shaw by a 134-vote majority, to become Speaker and hold that position while in opposition for the first time since the Second World War.
Born and raised in Yorkshire, Boothroyd first became an MP in 1974 and since retiring from the role of Speaker in October 2000 has been granted a life peerage, now sitting in the House of Lords as Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell. Known for her direct no-nonsense style, warmth and humour, she was widely popular during her tenure as Speaker, being reelected in 1997 unopposed.
When first appointed in 1992, the House broke protocol and rose to applaud Boothroyd upon her victory. Prime Minister John Major said: "You have become our Speaker-elect because this House trusts you. It believes you enjoy in abundance the qualities necessary to protect and sustain the House and to safeguard its rights. The fact that it was a contested election adds, I believe, to your success," to which Boothroyd replied: "I wish to thank the House for the very great honour it has bestowed on me. 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."
ROSL is celebrating women throughout 2018 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Suffragette movement. On International Women's Day in March, Over-Seas House hosted a debate on women's place in politics, following in Betty Boothroyd's footsteps. Featuring speaker Helen Pankhurst, granddaughter of Sylvia and great-granddaughter of Emmeline, among others, you could read about the event here.
ROSL itself also has a long history of celebrating women, having allowed women to join as of right from its inception in 1910. Today the club is led by D-G Diana Owen and features a largely female executive team. Read all about some of the women who have played a crucial role in the history of the organisation here.
To continue the celebrations throughout the rest of 2018, the September issue of Overseas will be dedicated to women. Keep an eye out for more updates on its features here.