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Climbing the Bookshelves; Fifty Years as a Woman in Politics

The former cabinet minister reflects on a career during which she was the second most prominent woman in British Politics.


Date: 16th February 2010

Time: 17:30 - 18:30

Venue: Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building (opposite Haymarket Metro)


In this lecture Shirley will speak about her recently published autobiography Climbing the Bookshelves (Virago Press 2009) and her life, lived through some of the most turbulent events in post war history. Shirley’s career has spanned both sides of the Atlantic in politics, academia, media and international relations, involving issues as diverse as education, consumer protection and nuclear non-proliferation. Through this she has borne witness to, and been an integral part of, the changing landscape for women in politics. An illuminating talk for anyone with an interest in the politics and public life, of the last fifty years and today. Baroness Shirley Williams was co-founder of the Liberal Democratic Party and its first President in 1982–1988 and served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords from 2001 until her retirement from that position in 2004.  An internationally respected politician she is Professor Emerita of Electoral Politics at Harvard University and advises the Prime Minister on issues of nuclear proliferation. Shirley Williams started her career as a journalist with the Daily Mirror (1952–54) and Financial Times (1954–58), and was General Secretary of the Fabian Society until her election as Labour MP for Hitchin (later Hertford and Stevenage) in 1964. She served in the British Cabinet (1974–79) as Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, as Paymaster General, and as Secretary of State for Education and Science. Shirley lost the seat in 1979 but, after co-founding the Social Democratic Party in 1981, was its first elected MP winning a by-election in Crosby, Merseyside that same year.   In 1993 Shirley became Baroness Williams of Crosby and was spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the Lords from 1998 to 2001. She is the author of several books, including Politics is for People (1981), A Job to Live (1985), God and Caesar: Reflections on Politics and Religion (2003), and her recent autobiography Climbing the Bookshelves (2009). She has received twelve honorary doctorates and is a frequent broadcaster.