Remembering Baroness Brenda Dean
Baroness Brenda Dean, a trailblazer and role model for women, died last Wednesday at the age of 74.
She was a lifelong trade unionist who rose to prominence in Britain during the 1980’s as president, and then general secretary, of the print workers’ union, SOGAT. In 1983 she became President of SOGAT the first woman to represent a major trade union. She then became General Secretary in 1985. She rose through the ranks; eventually landing a role that brought her face to face with Rupert Murdoch during long-running union protests over his introduction of new working practices at his British newspapers.
In her autobiography, “Hot Mettle” she describes how “she led negotiations, with secret meetings never before revealed, a woman in a man's world, fighting for the rights in which she had always believed. We learn of her early life and the battles in Manchester, with her meteoric rise to the top against all the odds. “
She was elevated to the peerage in 1993, taking a seat on the Labour benches and was appointed to the Privy Council in 1998.
In the House of Lords, Brenda sat on a number of major committees including the Trade Unions Political Fund, Political Party Funding Committee and the Constitution Committee. Brenda was a member of the National Committee of Higher Education, The Armed Forces Pay Review, the Housing Corporation, and Freedom to Fly.
She was a member of the University Council of Nottingham University. She worked diligently with staff at all levels to provide support for gender equality.
Viscount Chandos, chairman of the Thomson Foundation, described her as “a magnificent stalwart of the foundation over many years”. She served as a trustee of the Foundation from 2008 to 2016.
She was a great supporter of a strong and diverse media who used her immense energy to support the Foundation’s aims and its staff, and was appointed to the Printing Council in 1998.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair described her as “a huge figure in the Labour and trade union movement” who after the strength of her convictions, and commitment to reform, helped usher in significant changes, including in higher education. Prime Minister Blair added: “She blazed a trail for women, becoming the first female general secretary of a major union. I have incredibly fond memories of Brenda. She was a valued friend and adviser.”
She will be greatly missed by so many for her truthfulness and her irrepressible style. She leaves her husband Keith, her extended family, and her colleagues and friends who respected her dearly.