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Betty Lockwood interviewed by Margaret Faull

Lockwood, Betty, 1924- (speaker, female; interviewee; labour party activist)
2014-07-02; 2014-07-25; 2014-08-15; 2014-12-04


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  • Title:
    Betty Lockwood interviewed by Margaret Faull
  • Contributor: Lockwood, Betty, 1924-; Faull, Margaret, 1946-
  • Other Titles:
    Collection title: Margaret Faull Interviews

  • Rights: BL
  • Place Name: Nursing Home, West Yorkshire
  • Description:
    Tracks 1-3: Born in Shawcross and lived in an old cottage in the village that had been lived in by my mother’s family for quite some time. Father was a miner and an active trade union member and very active in the 1926 Miners’ Strike. Left the mining industry after 1926 as he realised he wouldn’t get a promotion to be a Deputy or Junior Manager. Her mother and father than bought a fish and chip shop in Batley. Mother was a weaver and when the fish and chip shop ran into some difficulty during the early 1930s she went out to work and, for a time, was the main source of income for the family. At that time her mother worked in Newthams Mill at Batley Park. Father’s last mining position was at the colliery at Shawcross. Believes her father used to work in a pit at Darton in South Yorkshire. Has no recollection of what her father did in the mines, except knowing that his ambition was to become a Deputy Manager which, in effect, was a Foreman. Her father didn’t succeed in that because of his Trade Union activities. After establishing the fish and chip shop, her father joined the Transport and General Workers Union and was quite active in that until he died in the later 1960s. Her mother died about ten years later in the 1970s and had been retired a long time before her death. Her parents eventually lived in a council house in Earlsheaton; mother stayed at home most of the time and father did labouring jobs in the building industry – he always wanted to take charge. Betty went to the local school in Eastborough in Dewsbury and left at the age of fifteen. Remembers having a lot of time off school when she was younger because she had a bad leg (a gangrene infection) and the public health authority medical officer worried that she might pass it on to other children. Betty was told that she was not allowed to go to school for about a year. When her family moved to Dewsbury, her parents ignored this advice and sent her to the local school, which accepted her without any difficulty. Claims her leg troubles began when she was four after trapping her foot in a brick yard. Told at the age of 12 that her leg would have to be amputated, but her father decided that it was her decision to make and she should wait until she was 18. Remembers having a lot of pain, but just ignored it and got on with her childhood. She was excused from taking part in sport in school. Betty studied all the usual subjects – Arithmetic (not proper Maths), English and English Literature, History and Geography. History and Geography were her favourite subjects. Betty was the youngest sibling – she had a sister five years her senior and a brother three years her senior. Both her mother’s brothers were miners at Shawcross Pit. Not sure if Shawcross was considered a good or a bad pit to work in. Notes how people would say that she is very much like her mother who was quite a determined woman and had her own view on things. Claims her interest in politics came from her father who dabbled in Labour and Trade Union politics and was very argumentative. Betty’s parents talked about politics at home to a certain extent, perhaps more so than many households, but they were not dogmatically political until it came to voting. Remembers playing out in the street as a child, playing ball with neighbours. Betty used to like walking and developed a walking habit from her mother. Betty’s father was a great bowler and went to various parts of Yorkshire on Saturday afternoons in the summer to take part in bowling matches. Remembers going along with her mother to watch her father play and they would have a picnic tea and go on a walk and enjoy the countryside. Her mother was a real country-lover. They would get there by bus, often having to travel on several buses. Having left school at the age of fifteen, Betty worked in a small fashion shop in Dewsbury called ‘Betty’s’ where she used to sell hats and eventually became a sales person, a role she thinks she was never very good at. Attended night school to study shorthand and typing while working at the shop. She eventually got a job with the local authority in their electricity department and claims she got the job because it was war-time and lots of people were in the Services. Worked as a telephone girl for the local authority at first, then became a shorthand typist before eventually becoming secretary to the engineering manager. Betty won a scholarship to Ruskin College, Oxford, to study Economics and Political Theory (she also studied History for a year) and became very active in the women’s side of the Labour Party. Betty acted as secretary to the branch in the Labour Party, which meant she took the minutes, did the correspondence on behalf of the branch and booking speakers. Betty joined the Labour Party in 1942 at the age of 18. Worked as a secretary to the local Labour Party Constituency part-time while she was studying. Appointed a woman officer in the Reading Labour Party, where she worked for two years. Betty then moved to Gillingham, Kent, where she was the Constituency Party Agent and Secretary for two or three years. Betty’s predecessor as Yorkshire Regional Woman Organiser in the Labour Party, Sarah Barker, suggested she apply for the Reading job. Betty was responsible for women’s affairs in the whole of Yorkshire when she was the Yorkshire Regional Woman Organiser in the Labour Party. This position involved a lot of travelling for the first two or three years on local transport, but she eventually got a car after the party introduced a loan scheme to purchase a car. Remembers the party paying for petrol as she had a mileage allowance. Betty had no contact with the Kent coal miners when she worked there. Remembers there being a lot of Conservatives in Kent. When Betty left Ruskin she did a correspondence course in English, Maths, French and History, but the correspondence course in French wasn’t very successful since languages had never really been one of her talents. Betty did not get any formal qualifications at Ruskin because she did not stay long enough. If she did stay on, she would have ended up with a certificate that would have equated to two years on a University course.

    Tracks 4-5: Betty was involved in the campaign for equal pay, which eventually led her to become involved in the campaign for an Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). EOC was set up following a visit made by the then Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, to America in 1974 to look at the American set up for equal opportunities. Betty was invited to become the first Chairperson and to have the responsibility of setting it up in 1975. Betty’s first task was to look at issues of gender equality within the Civil Service. Remembers the Civil Service working separately from her and not letting her know what they were doing. The EOC became a public service body, which was slightly different from the Civil Service, and they had their own terms and conditions of service. The Civil Service structure did not permit women to be appointed above the level of just below Principal Secretary; there was also a different pay structure and it was a lesser grade and with very little prospect of promotion from there on to the main grade. Elspeth Howe became Vice Chairman because the Home Office wanted it to be an All Party affair and Betty wanted it to be an All Party affair. Believes it was no good setting up a Labour body which would be demolished once the Conservatives came into power. When the EOC became operative, it had a backlog of about 10,000 complaints waiting to be dealt with, including the Price complaint (that men could go straight into the Civil Service from school or university and women couldn’t go into the same grade until they were 28). Found that women were very badly represented in the different executive positions in the Civil Service. Anthony Lester, Personal Assistant to Roy Jenkins at the Home Office, was instrumental in drawing up legislation and spoke to Elspeth Howe about becoming Vice Chairman. EOC given powers to undertake investigations and remembers receiving a complaint from one of the local authorities in the Manchester area about housing. Remembers it taking quite a while to set things ups before beginning formal investigations. The TUC chose the trade union representatives and the CBI chose the employer representatives. The three independents were two men and one woman. Remembers one of the Commissioners who came from the voluntary sector resigning after a year because she couldn’t cope with the wrangling that went on in the Commission.

    Track 6: Commission was based in Manchester, but there was also an office in London. Betty recalls dividing her week between the two cities. She insisted that the EOC had a presence in London as all the media were based there and the EOC needed publicity and contacts with both the media and with head offices of various public organisations and private companies as well. Betty had a flat in London, which was her main home at the time, and stayed at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. Betty occasionally went to Dewsbury and stayed with her friend in a bungalow in which she still has a share. Notes that the EOC’s presence in Manchester was due to the Government’s policy of regional devolution. Betty feels that the EOC was the wrong kind of organisation to be part of that experiment as it needed a great deal of public exposure, which was achievable in London. Remembers a negative article about the EOC in one of the Sunday papers, and how this lead to the appointment of a professional Head of Communications and a Press Officer in London in order to build up a better image. States that the EOC was trying to investigate where there had been discrimination in the workplace, but also tried to work with firms and encourage and educate them to implement Equal Opportunities policies. Betty did a lot of traveling to meet companies all over the country. She also tried to talk to the trade unions, but did not have a good relationship with them at the time because they were very suspicious of the Commission, believing the EOC to be meddling in workers’ affairs. All of the three main broadsheets - The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian - had a pretty bad impression of the EOC at the beginning and they tended to carry the same stories, until the EOC began to have meetings and briefings for the media and built up a more co-operative relationship with them. Remembers The Telegraph describing Elspeth Howe and herself as two meddling women. Believes The Times was more straightforward and objective, while The Guardian thought that the EOC was too wishy-washy. Remembers being threatened by one organisation who wanted to take the EOC to court as they believed the EOC to be too authoritarian. Notes how the EOC built up a better relationship with the media over time, particularly with women journalists. EOC held conferences of women’s organisations and invited the media. Conferences were mainly held in London, but they were often in Manchester. Betty was at the EOC from its establishment in 1975 until the end of March 1983. Remembers the Conservative government coming into power in 1979 and them wanting to replace Betty as Head of the EOC with someone more to their way of thinking. Claims this never happened as they soon realised the EOC had no party political agenda. Betty’s successor was a Conservative called Beryl Platt whose background had been in local government and education. Betty remembers her as being a very nice woman who concentrated on schools and local education policies, particularly educating youngsters about equal opportunities between the sexes. Betty notes how Platt did this very well, but tended to ignore the employment side and the wider implications of the EOC’s responsibilities. Betty thinks that her greatest achievement at the EOC was to establish that women could do the jobs that they had not previously been thought of as being able to do and that they should have an equal chance to get on in the professions. Feels that the profession were the image setters and that if you could get women into the professions and women in business management, then that would give help and assistance to the women who were up and coming and working alongside men with unequal pay and unequal opportunities. Talks about the definition of equal pay in the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and how it needed to broader as women and men did not always perform the same work. Felt it was a difficult task of equating one kind of job for another and establishing work of equal value. Thinks that women in 2014 have not achieved as much as she hoped when she set up the EOC. Believes the EOC was successful in providing women opportunities to get into jobs and the professions, but did not do enough to get the same number of women as men to the top of the ladder. Betty was still at the EOC when she went into the House of Lords in 1979. Notes how her appointment letter came unexpectedly. Went into the House in 1979, but wasn’t very active at first as she did not have the opportunity – she had to give priority to the EOC. Betty married Cedric Hall in 1978. Notes how they get married as it was more respectable to get married rather than continue their relationship and live together out of wedlock. Betty did not tell anybody that she was getting married. A colleague from the Labour Party, Margaret Foulkes, and Cedric’s son, Tim, acted as witnesses at the wedding. Betty became much more active in the House of Lords after leaving the EOC. She developed an interest in higher education and did a lot of work with Bradford University, becoming Chairman of the University Council in 1979 and then Chancellor. Betty took up another public appointment at the National Coal Mining Museum of England and was active in getting national status for the museum (it was the Yorkshire Mining Museum). Moved to Addingham in 1980.

    Track 7: Betty lived in Gillingham when she worked in Kent as a Parliamentary Agent and Organiser. Spent about two years there before moving back to Yorkshire. Applied for a vacancy in Yorkshire in 1949/1950 and acted as Party Agent in the 1952 General Election, where she was responsible for the organisation of the Labour Party. Betty was appointed Yorkshire Regional Woman’s Organiser of the Labour Party after the election. Talks about living with her friend Dorothy in a bungalow in Dewsbury and how they were both fond of the countryside and would drive to the Yorkshire Dales. Betty’s role as Yorkshire Regional Woman’s Organiser of the Labour Party meant she was responsible for all the women’s groups in Yorkshire – at that time well over 100 in different parts of the region. Betty went round speaking to women’s groups and helped them organise membership campaigns and set up committees and fundraising activities. Thinks she did that for 15 years before applying for the post of National Women’s Officer of the Labour Party and Assistant National Agent in 1967, which meant moving from Dewsbury to London. Moved to London and maintained her share of the house in Dewsbury. Describes her relationship with Dorothy as being platonic. Betty would travel back to Yorkshire regularly – one weekend a month. In London, Betty lived in Surbiton with a former colleague who became a lecturer at the Adult College in Surbiton. Betty met her future husband, Cedric, through a friend’s husband. Cedric lived in Putney and had a son named Tim. Cedric’s first wife died when Tim was eleven. Cedric was an Army officer who was in charge of overseas education in the British Army. Betty eventually got a flat in Kensington and was living there when her and Cedric got married. Betty’s job as National Women’s Officer opened up a number of opportunities. She regularly visited continental Europe and did a lot of work establishing women’s educational activities across the world. Betty found a big difference in the role and status of women in the different countries she went to and noticed that they did not have the same kind of organisation as the Labour Party had in Britain. Did the job of National Women’s Organiser until 1975 and got involved with the Movement for Equal Pay. Betty campaigned for equal pay and talks about the Equal Pay Act of 1970 introduced by Barbara Castle (although it did not become operative until 1975). Notes how one of her main objectives was to get more women MPs and the resistance some had against women becoming MPs. Betty set up the EOC because she had been campaigning for equal pay and equal opportunities.

  • Notes:
    Recording: 2014-07-02; 2014-07-25; 2014-08-15; 2014-12-04;
    - Lockwood, Betty, 1924- (speaker, female; interviewee; labour party activist);
    - Faull, Margaret, 1946- (speaker, female; interviewer; former managing director of the National Coal Mining Museum for England)
    Recording Notes: The following recorded sections and corresponing verbatim transcript are closed until 31st December 2036:Track 5: 29:51-36:51; Track 6: 16:36-20:02 and 30:25-32:14; Track 7: 44:02-46:00.
    Duration: 02 hr. 31. min
    Access restrictions: Refer to curator

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