Shirley Williams, Co-Founder of the Social Democratic Party and its first President 1982-88, served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords from 2001 until retiring from that position in 2004. She is Professor Emeritus of Elective Politics at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and advises the Prime Minister on issues of nuclear proliferation.
Shirley Williams is the daughter of the late Professor Sir George Catlin and the late Vera Brittain and was educated at St Paul's Girls' School, London and eight other schools in the UK and US. She was an open scholar at Somerville College Oxford (BA philosophy, politics and economics 1951, MA 1954), where she was elected the first woman Chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club, and a Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University New York.
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, Paymaster General and 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 in the same year.
She became Baroness Williams of Crosby in 1993 and was spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the Lords from 1998 to 2001.
Professor Williams also directed Project Liberty, which focused on Eastern Europe. She is a Board Member at the Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She was a member of the Advisory Council to the UN Secretary-General on the Fourth World Women's Conference, and a member of the European Commission's Comite de Sages on social and civil rights. She was also a President of Chatham House (Royal Institute of International affairs) 2002 - 2006.
Shirley Williams is a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation, a Board Member of the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington DC and a Trustee of the Century Foundation in New York and the IPPR in London. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations International Advisory Committee and serves on several other boards, including the Moscow School of Political Studies and the International Committee on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.
She is the author of several books including Politics is for People (1981) A Job to Live (1985) and God and Caesar (2003). She is the recipient of twelve honorary doctorates and a frequent broadcaster.
Some of our latest Act members