Queer Places:
Tynemouth, North Shields NE30 4BZ, UK

Irene Ward.jpgIrene Mary Bewick Ward, Baroness Ward of North Tyneside, CH, DBE (23 February 1895 – 26 April 1980) was a British Conservative politician. She was a long-serving female Member of Parliament (MP). Nina Boyle’s political and friendship network was far-reaching and on her death in 1943, a memorial fund was set up by her women colleagues specifically to keep alive the political issues that Nina Boyle fought for all her feminist career. The Nina Boyle Memorial Committee comprised Cicely Hamilton as chairwoman, Elsa Gye as honorary secretary and Marie Lawson, honorary treasurer. Members of Parliament who were also patrons to the Nina Boyle Memorial Fund included Eleanor Rathbone, Nancy Astor, Ellen Wilkinson, Irene Ward, Dr. Edith Summerskill and Megan Lloyd George.

Irene Mary Bewick Wardwas the only child of Alfred John Bewick Ward (1855/6-1901), an architect who designed some of the mosaics in Westminster Cathedral, and his wife, Elvina Mary Ellis (died 1944).

Ward was educated privately and at Newcastle Church High School. She contested Morpeth in 1924 and 1929 without success and was elected to the House of Commons in 1931 for Wallsend, defeating Labour's Margaret Bondfield. A strong advocate for Tyneside industry and social conditions, she lost her seat in the 1945 general election, which Labour won by a landslide.

In 1950, Ward returned to Parliament for Tynemouth, again defeating a female incumbent, Grace Colman. An active backbencher, she introduced the bill that became the Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act, 1954. She promoted a Bill to pay pocket money to the elderly living in institutions.

Ward worked with Charlotte Bentley who led the "National Association of State Enrolled Assistant Nurses". Her private member's bill passed through parliament to remove the demeaning word "assistant" from the State Enrolled Nurses's job title.[1] This was the Nurses (Amendment) Act, 1961 and the following year there followed the Penalties for Drunkenness Act, 1962. She served on the Public Accounts Committee from 1964.

She is remembered in some quarters for an incident which caused amusement on both sides of the House when she threatened to "poke" the then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Having received an evasive answer to a parliamentary question, she responded with the words: "I will poke the Prime Minister. I will poke him until I get a response."

Ward retired from the Commons in February 1974, having served a total of almost 38 years. She was the longest-serving female MP (although she would not have been Mother of the House because there was always a longer continuously-serving sitting MP as a result of the gap in her tenure) until that record was broken by Gwyneth Dunwoody in 2007. Aged 79 at her retirement, Ward was at that time also the oldest-ever serving female Member of Parliament and the oldest-ever woman to be re-elected, records not broken until Ann Clwyd achieved both in 2017.

She was created a life peer as Baroness Ward of North Tyneside, of North Tyneside in the County of Tyne and Wear, on 23 January 1975.[2]

Ward was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1929[3] and promoted to Dame Commander (DBE) in 1955,[4] and was appointed a Companion of Honour in 1973.[5]

She died in 1980 and was cremated and her ashes were transported by a fishing boat from her old constituency and scattered in the North Sea.

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