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6 October 2021

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St Hugh’s Alumni Association celebrates the life and legacy of Barbara Castle

On 18 September 2021, the St Hugh’s Alumni Association was delighted to host a virtual symposium celebrating the life and legacy of St Hugh’s alumna Barbara Castle, Baroness Castle of Blackburn PC (Philosophy, Politics and Economics, 1929). Over 100 guests joined us online for ‘Barbara Castle MP – “You’re Only A Woman, What Do You Know About It?”’ and heard from a fantastic panel of distinguished speakers:

Nicky Morgan (Law, 1990), The Rt Hon The Baroness Morgan of Cotes PC

MP for Loughborough 2010-2019 and former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; and for Education; and Minister for Women and Equalities.

Anne Perkins

Authorised biographer of Barbara Castle (Red Queen, published Macmillan 2003). Former Guardian leader writer, and BBC and Channel 4 News Political Correspondent. Also biographer of Stanley Baldwin and author of A Very British Strike on the General Strike of 1926.

The Rt Hon Jack Straw

Barbara Castle’s Political Adviser when she was Secretary of State for Health & Social Services, and her successor as MP for Blackburn from 1979 to 2015. Former Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Lord Chancellor.

The Rt Hon Emily Thornberry

MP for Islington South & Finsbury since 2005. Current Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade and Shadow Cabinet member since 2011, including as Shadow Foreign Secretary.

The event was chaired by the President of the St Hugh’s Alumni Association, Veronica Lowe (née Bagley, Modern History, 1969). Veronica said of the event:

‘Although it would have been ideal to hold a face-to-face event, as with the Alumni Association’s very successful symposia in 2018 and 2020, we enjoyed a sparkling array of insights into Barbara Castle’s career and character. The speakers brought together a combination of personal experience of working with her on great matters of State; perceptive research into her unwavering motivation but often mercurial personality; and admiration for her achievements in a difficult political climate for female politicians which still resonates today. Barbara Castle was a truly inspirational figure,
and we are extremely grateful to the speakers for illuminating this for the present day.’

The recording of the event is now available to watch here:


This event brought to a close the College’s celebrations to mark 100 years of Oxford degrees for women. To find out more about our events and online activities to mark the centenary, please visit



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