Dame Jean Roberts (1895-1988) earned a unique place in history when she became Glasgow's first woman Lord Provost in 1960. Jean Weir, as she was born, had roots in Springburn where her father worked as a railway engineer. She became a primary teacher after leaving Whitehill School in Dennistoun and eventually taught children with disabilities. In 1922 she married a fellow teacher, Cameron Roberts (d. 1964) and both became active socialists. An articulate and persuasive speaker, she was adopted as Labour candidate for the Kingston Ward of Glasgow Corporation and was successful in the 1929 elections.
She achieved a number of offices in the civic hierarchy, blazing a trail for women in such prestigious positions as City Treasurer and Leader of the Labour Group. Roberts had thirty years continuous service when councillors elected her as Lord Provost. Her three years' term of office coincided with a period of intensive slum clearance and rebuilding by the Corporation in an effort to resolve the city's acute housing problems. Her most prominent public role came in 1961, accompanying Queen Elizabeth II on a much-publicised tour of the Gorbals, which was then undergoing wholesale redevelopment.
During her time as Lord Provost, Roberts took a special interest in promoting Glasgow's cultural assets. She was an ardent champion of orchestral music, eventually serving as Chair of the Scottish National Orchestra Society. Created a Dame of the British Empire in 1962, Roberts rounded off her distinguished career as Chair of Cumbernauld Development Corporation between 1965 and 1972.
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