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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Baroness Young of Farnworth: Obituary
Baroness Young of Farnworth
As the first woman Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Janet Young was the only woman elevated to Cabinet rank in Margaret Thatcher's 11 years in power.

She had an early taste of competing in a man's world.

The daughter of an Oxford don, Janet Mary Baker was born in 1926 and educated at the boys' Dragon School in the city, where she gained respect by excelling at cricket and rugby.

She said: "No allowances were made. It taught me independence of spirit and how to stand up for myself in society."

After a spell at Headington School, she spent four years with an American family while studying at Yale during World War Two.

Afterwards she returned to Oxford to take an MA in philosophy, politics and economics at St Anne's College.

Baroness Young
First woman leader of the Lords
In 1950 she married a fellow of Jesus College, Dr Geoffrey Tyndale Young, with whom she had three daughters.

Her first political office was as a Conservative member of Oxford City Council in 1957.

She became its leader 10 years later and in 1971, the then prime minister, Edward Heath, offered her a life peerage.

Lady Young was appointed a government Whip in the House of Lords in 1972 and the following year became a junior environment minister.

In opposition she served as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, but when Mrs Thatcher swept to power Lady Young became minister of state for education.

I'm not against anybody but I am for young people

Baroness Young on opposing lowering the age of gay consent
She was admired for the speed of her decision-making and her "razor sharp mind" stood her in good stead when she became Leader of the Lords and a member of the Cabinet during the Falklands conflict.

But in 1983 she had to relinquish her post in the Lords to make room for Lord Whitelaw and confessed to being disappointed: "I'm human. But this is political life".

She was amused when she was characterised as the Iron Lady of the Lords, but acknowledged: "If you want to get things done, you have to exercise a certain amount of discipline".

A tireless advocate of family values, Lady Young was intent on protecting children from what she regarded as liberal excesses.

Baroness Young in 2000
A resolute campaigner for family values
A sponsor of the right-wing and Christian-aligned pressure group, Family and Youth Concern, she fought to prevent unmarried couples being able to adopt children and fiercely opposed John Major's no-fault divorce legislation.

Baroness Young's reputation as a doughty fighter was confirmed once more when she waged a campaign against lowering the age of consent for gay men.

She provoked accusations of homophobia when she said she felt such a move sent "the wrong signal" and put young people "at risk".

Though they were at odds with each other, two former prime ministers were unstinting in their praise of Lady Young.

Sir Edward Heath said her influence had been widely felt throughout the country, while Baroness Thatcher said Janet Young was one of the most courageous and effective woman politicians of her generation.

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06 Sep 02 | Politics
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