Remembering Honorary Fellow Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams (1930-2021)

We are sorry to hear that Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby, died this morning, after a lifetime of public service in its fullest sense. 

Shirley Williams was an Honorary Fellow of Newnham, and a keen supporter of College life for many years. The Development Office team remembers her snatching time between Brexit sessions in the House of Lords to leap on the underground, travel across London, and welcome Alison Rose as our new Principal. She had been looking forward to contributing to our 150th Anniversary celebrations.

Baroness Williams was first elected to Parliament in 1964 as a Labour MP, serving until the 1979 General Election. In 1981 she resigned from the Labour Party to co-found the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and was the first member of that party to be elected to Parliament; she later supported the SDP’s merger with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats. She was a member of the board of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Washington DC, a member of the International Commission on Nuclear Proliferation Disarmament, and of the Comité des Sages, reporting to the European Commission.

In 1988 she accepted a professorship at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, later becoming Public Service Professor of Electoral Politics, Emerita. She was made a life peer in 1993, and served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. Her work assisting emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe was recognised worldwide as is her work in education, international relations, democracy, politics and nuclear non-proliferation.

Principal Alison Rose said, “I first met Baroness Williams in the House of Lords whilst briefing her on draft legislation. She was always courteous as well as probing.  I was so touched when she travelled over to meet me in my second week as Principal and offered to come and speak at College. Reading her autobiography has been one of my lockdown treats.”