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Betty Boothroyd, Baroness Boothroyd

2 of 11 portraits of Betty Boothroyd, Baroness Boothroyd

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Betty Boothroyd, Baroness Boothroyd

by Brendan Kelly
oil on canvas, 2014
39 1/2 in. x 39 1/2 in. (1003 mm x 1002 mm) overall
Commissioned, 2014
Primary Collection
NPG 6982

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In this half-length portrait Boothroyd is shown in a red jacket, wearing a gold brooch depicting a portcullis, designed by the sitter to commemorate her time in the House of Commons. The frame incorporates Boothroyd's coat-of-arms, including her personal motto 'I speak to serve'. Boothroyd sat for Kelly in his London studio, where the artist took a large number of reference photographs. During their first meeting Boothroyd told the artist that it was important he understood she was ‘a fighter’ and to 'paint me as you see me'. Using digital technology, Kelly slightly manipulated the image to create a composition which conveyed his sitter’s smart appearance and charisma, but also her defiant attitude – key to her success as Speaker. This commissioned painting is a sensitive and perceptive response to a politician who was one of the most prominent women in Parliament in recent decades.

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  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 165 Read entry

    Betty Boothroyd (b.1929) was the first female Speaker of the House of Commons from 1992 to 2000. Born in Yorkshire, her parents were textile workers. In the 1940s she worked as a dancer with the Tiller Girls. She was assistant to Barbara Castle MP from 1956 to 1958 and moved to the United States to observe the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s. Returning to London, she entered local politics, having been elected to a seat on Hammersmith Borough Council. She stood as an MP on a number of occasions and, in 1973, was eventually elected in a by-election as MP for West Bromwich. Boothroyd served as a Member of the European Parliament from 1975 to 1977 and as Chancellor of the Open University from 1994 to 2006. She was created a life peer in 2001.

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