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TitlePapers of Mo Mowlam
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AdminHistoryMarjorie Mowlam was born on September 18 1949 in Watford, Hertfordshire, to Post Office worker Frank William Mowlam and telephonist Bettina Mary nee Rogers, the second of three children.

Mowlam briefly attended Chiswick Girls Grammar School in West London; she was the only one of her siblings to achieve the 11 plus examination. She then went on to Coundon Court Comprehensive School for girls, before moving to Coventry when her father was promoted. At Coundon Court she was Head Girl, and received a Duke of Edinburgh award. Mowlam left with 9 O-levels and 3 A-levels in 1968.

Mowlam started university in 1968 at Trevelyan College, Durham. Where she studied Sociology and Anthropology, Mowlam was active in student politics, as Vice-President of the Student Representative Council, the forerunner of Durham Students Union. She Graduated with second class, division one BA (Hons) Anthropology.

In 1972 she worked for Labour MP Tony Benn, as a Research Assistant in London, and American writer Alvin Toffler, before moving to America to continue her studies at The University of Iowa in 1973, where she studied Political Science attaining an MA in 1974, and a PhD in 1978 (on the system of Referenda in Switzerland). Mowlam briefly taught at both the University of Wisconsin and Florida State University before returning to England in 1979, as a lecturer at Newcastle University.

During her time in Newcastle Mowlam became very active in politics, chairing the Tyne Bridge Constituency Labour Party, and joining the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, where Mowlam arranged a series of alternative lectures that were published as 'Debate and Disarmament' in 1981, and wrote a chapter of Dorothy Thompson's edited collection 'Over our dead bodies: Women Against the Bomb'. Mowlam also played a part in securing Neil Kinnock's successful election bid for leader of the Labour Party in 1983.

Mowlam failed to gain a parliamentary seat in Newcastle, however shortly before the 1987 general election Redcar MP James Tinn announced that he would not be standing for re-election; Mowlam was short listed to four, and won narrowly against Richard Lewis by a narrow margin of 7 votes in the selection process. Mowlam gained a parliamentary seat in the 1987 general election, which she secured until her retirement from the House of Commons in 2001.

Mowlam was thirty-eight years old when she first stepped into the House of Commons; on her maiden speech she paid special tribute to Ellen Wilkinson, one of the first Women to be an elected Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough in the 1924 General Election, and particularly pointed out the issue of low-paid women.

During her career in the Labour Party Mowlam held numerous different roles and positions the first being given to her by Neil Kinnock after only 10 months in the House of Commons, as junior spokes person on Northern Ireland, which gave her insight into the complexities in Northern Ireland's political history. In 1989 Mowlam was appointed as Labour's spokes person on The City of London and Corporate Affairs, it was during her time as City spokesperson that she first met her husband to be Jonathon Paul Norton, who she married in 1995, at Middlesbrough registry office on June 24, and became step-mother to his two children Henrietta and Freddie.

In 1992 she was promoted to the shadow cabinet as spokesperson on Women and the 'Citizen's Charter', she worked along side Gordon Brown, whom she did not have much fondness for. Mowlam also became a member of the National Executive Committee, and in 1994 helped with the organisation of Tony Blair's successful leadership bid, Blair later described Mowlam as "one of the most remarkable and colourful personalities ever to enter British Politics". Blair appointed Mowlam as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 1994, then following Labours victory in the 1997 General Election was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, she was the first and only women to ever hold this position to date.

In the weeks prior to Labours landslide victory Mowlam was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour, she choose to keep this to herself and those close to her, telling only her advisor Nigel Warren, Speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd and Tony Blair. It was only when the press started to make comment on her weight gain and hair loss, as a result of the radiotherapy and steroid treatment to battle the tumour that Mowlam decide it was time to tell the public about her situation. Yet through it all Mowlam's strength and determination kept her moving forward.

Mowlam was instrumental in the IRA ceasefire and getting Sein Finn included in the Multi-Party talks about the future of Northern Ireland. In 1998 Mowlam saw though the Good Friday Agreement which temporarily established a devolved Northern Ireland Assembly, however despite attempts to appease Unionists parties by visiting prisoners in the Maze her popularity with the Unionists was diminishing, which was epitomised when David Trimble declared Mowlam had lost confidence from the Unionists after the release of Patrick Magee from Prison. She was criticized by fellow ministers and Unionists for being 'too close' to Sein Finn, it was amidst these accusations she was shifted to a low-key role, as a result of Blair's cabinet reshuffle.

Blair's cabinet reshuffle in 1999 saw the end of Mowlam as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, when Peter Mandleson replaced her. Mowlam was the first and only Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to have her protection removed from her by Blair, a move that at the time caused great controversy in the press. As a result of the reshuffle Mowlam became Minister for the Cabinet Office, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, she later became Blair's Cabinet 'Enforcer', where she was responsible for issues including drugs policy and parliamentary reform, despite drugs policy being a key interest of Mowlam's she became bored of the job, and publicly declared this to the press in later 2000, where she announced her retirement from Parliament effective from the 2001 General Election.

After Mowlam's retirement in 2001 she was involved in a number of project and organisations. Her main focus was on foreign policy towards Iraq, often invited as keynote speaker at events and conferences to talk on her experience in the Northern Ireland Peace Process. Mowlam became a noted critic of Government Policy, she frequently had articles and columns printed in the national press, and took up the role as Agony Aunt for men's magazine 'Zoo'.

In 2002 she published her autobiography Momentum, and took part in various television programmes, while trying to get several of her own television show's commissioned, for example panel show 'Left, Right, and Centre'. Mowlam also toured the country with 'An audience with Mo Mowlam'.

Mowlam and her husband retired to Sittingbourne, Kent, where they were working together on a book about drugs policy, which was never published.

Mowlam's health continued to deteriorate, and she died on the August 19 2005, in the Pilgrim's Hospice, from bronchopneumonia and astrocitoma of the brain. She was survived by her husband Jon Norton, who then died in 2009.

Mowlam is unquestionably recognised as a monumentally important player in the Northern Ireland peace talks. Her bravery, determination and straightforward attitude are what made her loved by her peers and the British public. Her achievement by way of Northern Ireland were real and measurable, Mo Mowlam was certainly one of a kind.


Evening Gazette (2000) I'd miss you all so...I shall be here when I go' Evening Gazette: Middlesbrough.

The Biography Channel (2005) Mo Mowlam Biograpthy, Avaliable at:

The Guardian (2005) Mo Mowlam, Available at:

Langton, J(1998) Mo Mowlam, Personality of the Year, The Guardian, Available at:

Langton, J(2000) Mo Mowlam, Little Brown & Company

Murphy, P (2004) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 'Mowlam, Marhorie [Mo]' Oxford University Press: Oxford. Available at:

Watt, N (1999) Trimble Calls For Mowlams Head' The Guardian, Available at:
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