Groundbreakers Project Women

Groundbreaking women in Westminster to become part of a significant archive at the University of Cambridge

Groundbreakers Poster

A new collaboration between women journalists and the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge has been recording the personal journeys and histories of some of the most well-known and long-lived women parliamentarians from all parties in the House of Commons and House of Lords today.

Between January 2024 and May 2024 they interviewed names such as the Right Honourable Labour MPs Margaret Beckett, Harriet Harman, Margaret Hodge, who will be standing down when the next General Election is called to fellow Labour peers such as Baroness Helene Hayman, the first women to breast feed in the Commons and Baroness Hilary Armstrong the Chief Whip under Tony Blair's government.

Some of the first Conservative women to make it into the Cabinet have also spoken to them including Baroness Gillian Shephard, and Baroness Virgina Bottomley and Dame Caroline Spelman also Baroness Anne Jenkin who formed Women2Win with Theresa May.

More recently the Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Susan Kramer has spoken of her entry into politics in mid-life and how much she has enjoyed it.

All speak of how social media has made the role of women in politics today more difficult, but they would still recommend it.

Women MP's

Their remarkable political journeys, some lasting 50 years continuously, began in the 1970s when Harold Wilson was Prime Minster, to more recent memories of meeting Margaret Thatcher and working with Theresa May and in Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's governments and the coalition government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

These 13 interviews will be held at the Churchill Archives Centre, University of Cambridge which has the papers of Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, and individuals such as Florence Hillsborough, who was the first conservative, female cabinet member. On the labour side, Mary Agnes Hamilton and more recently Tessa Jowell and Patricia Hewitt.

Beckett

Allen Packwood the Director of the Centre explained:

"What the "Ground breakers" series of interviews does for us, is to take us into the digital age. As we look to the future, more and more people are going to be accessing our resources online, and we want our material to be used in the classroom at all sorts of different levels. I think audio visual material is a really good, engaging way of doing that. People want to see these individuals talking about their experiences. They want to hear it from them, in their own voice."

The interviews were conducted and produced by Jackie Ashley, Deborah McGurran and Boni Sones OBE in association with the audio-visual unit at the Churchill Archives Centre.

They have interviewed - (listed by date they came into Parliament): Baroness Helene Hayman (Lab), Margaret Beckett MP (Lab) Harriet Harman MP (Lab), Baroness Emma Nicholson (Cons), Baroness Gillian Shephard (Cons), Baroness Anne Jenkin (Cons), and Baroness Virgina Bottomley (Cons), Baroness Hilary Armstrong (Lab), Anne Campbell (Lab), Baroness Estelle Morris (Lab), Margaret Hodge MP (Lab), Dame Caroline Spelman (Lab), and Baroness Susan Kramer (Lib Dem).

MP in front of house of parliament

Long Read

Here you can read our long read article with selected quotes from these interviews on the start of their political journeys.

Podcasts

Here you can listen to our seven social media podcasts where we have let them each tell their stories, alongside another in other parties or those who like them have long serving political careers with those in the same party.

A Woman in the House Podcast One: Baroness Anne Jenkin (Cons) and Anne Campbell (Lab).

A Woman in the House Podcast Two: Baroness Hilary Armstrong (Lab) and Baroness Gillian Shephard (Cons).

A Woman in the House Podcast Three: Harriet Harman MP(Lab) and Margaret Beckett MP (Lab).

A Woman in the House Podcast Four: Dame Caroline Spelman (Cons) and Baroness Estelle Morris (Lab) and Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives Centre.

A Woman in the House Podcast Five: Baroness Helene Hayman (Lab), Baroness Emma Nicholson (Cons) and Baroness Susan Kramer (LD).

A Woman in the House Podcast Six: Baroness Virgina Bottomley (Cons) and Margaret Hodge MP (Lab).

A Woman in the House Podcast Seven: All 13 women talk about the start of their political journeys. The order is: Hayman, Beckett, Harman, Nicholson, Shephard, Jenkin, Bottomley, Armstrong, Campbell, Morris, Hodge, Spelman, Kramer, and Allen Packwood.

Their Achievements in Changing Modern Britain.
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