Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby (born 27 July 1930) is a British politician and academic. Originally a Labour Member of Parliament (MP) and Cabinet Minister, she was one of the "Gang of Four" rebels who founded the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981. In 2001–2004, she served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, and served as Adviser on Nuclear Proliferation to Prime Minister Gordon Brown from 2007 to 2010. Williams also serves as Professor Emerita of Electoral Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Born Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Catlin, Williams is the daughter of a political scientist and philosopher Sir George Catlin, and the feminist and pacifist writer Vera Brittain. She was educated at various primary schools including Mrs Spencer's School in Brechin Place, South Kensington, and Christchurch Elementary School in Chelsea, Talbot Heath School in Bournemouth, St Paul's Girls' School, London, and Somerville College, Oxford, where she was an Open Scholar. As a member of the OUDS she toured the USA playing the role of Cordelia in Shakespeare's King Lear. She was the first woman to chair the Oxford University Labour Club (1950).
After graduating as a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics she was a Fulbright Scholar and studied at Columbia University in New York City. On returning to Britain, she began her career as a journalist. In 1960, she became General Secretary of the Fabian Society.