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Overlooked No More: Maureen Colquhoun, Pathbreaking Politician Waylaid by Bias

by News Desk

Matthew Parris, a onetime Conservative lawmaker and columnist, wrote in The Times of London in 2018: “Labour could live with individualists. Not lesbians, though. When she came out she was sunk, and deselected, and finished.”

Maureen Morfydd Smith was born on Aug. 12, 1928, in Eastbourne, on the southern English coast, and raised by Elizabeth Smith, a single mother. She adopted her political allegiance at the age of 17, when she joined the Labour Party. She was later a member of the left-wing Tribune Group of the party. She was a graduate of the London School of Economics.

In 1948 she married Keith Colquhoun, a British journalist and novelist, with whom she had three children; he died of prostate cancer in 2010.

Maureen Colquhoun first ran for a seat in Parliament, from Tonbridge, a commuter town south of London, in 1970, but lost. From 1971 to 1974 she served as the only female town council member in Shoreham-by-Sea, on the English Channel. Her Conservative Party adversaries on the council barred her serving on committees, referring to her as a “chatterbox.”

Colquhoun won a seat in the House of Commons in February 1974, an election that brought Harold Wilson to power as a Labour prime minister; at the time, less than 30 percent of the house’s 635 lawmakers were women.

A year later, Colquhoun left her husband to move in with Todd.

Throughout her parliamentary career she displayed “an uncomfortable ability for upsetting equally my friends and my enemies,” as she wrote in her memoir, “A Woman in the House” (1980).

Colquhoun campaigned in favor of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, which outlawed gender-based discrimination, and pushed for equal status for men and women in running public institutions.

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