The youngest of three children, Dame Barbara Castle was born at 67 Derby Road, Chesterfield to Frank and Annie Betts, and raised in Pontefract and Bradford. Castle was introduced to socialist politics and beliefs from a young age.
Following her marriage to Ted Castle (1907-1979) in 1944, Barbara became a journalist on the Daily Mirror, which by this time had become strongly pro-Labour. In the 1945 general election, which Labour won in a landslide, she became MP for Blackburn, Lancashire.
She soon achieved a reputation as a left-winger and a rousing speaker. During the 1950s she was a high-profile Bevanite and made a name for herself as a vocal advocate of decolonisation and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Barbara Castle supported and encouraged both the anti-apartheid movement (AAM) and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa at a particularly difficult period.
A frequent speaker at Trafalgar Square rallies, and heading up the AAM marches of that time, she helped organise the 72-hour "black sash" vigil outside Lancaster House during the 1961 commonwealth prime ministers' conference, which ended with South Africa leaving the Commonwealth.
She also agreed to become an honorary president of AAM. To help with our membership drive, she personally signed letters to all Labour MPs, including Harold Wilson, most of whom became AAM's first individual members.
In the closing stages of the Rivonia treason trial in June 1964, with Woodrow Wyatt, Humphry Berkeley, and at least 50 other MPs, Barbara Castle headed an impressive march to Trafalgar Square, where a petition, signed by 100 MPs, was presented to the South African embassy demanding no death penalties and the freeing of the accused.
Earlier, in March 1963, Harold Wilson addressed a rally to protest at the trial - and the arms trade with South Africa - at Barbara Castle's request. Dame Barbara Castle passed away on 3 May 2002