Trixie Gardner, Baroness Gardner of Parkes
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Rachel Trixie Anne Gardner, Baroness Gardner of Parkes, AM, FRSA, JP (née McGirr; born 17 July 1927) is an Australian-born dentist, Conservative politician, and life peeress of the United Kingdom parliament. She is the only Australian woman to date who has been elevated to the peerage.
Lady Gardner was born in Parkes, New South Wales, the daughter of Greg McGirr, a former leader of the New South Wales Labor Party. A dentist by profession, she earned a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) in 1954 from the University of Sydney and later studied at Cordon Bleu de Paris. She was a councillor of Westminster City Council from 1968 to 1978, and was Lady Mayoress 1987-88. In 1970, she stood for the Conservative Party against Barbara Castle (Labour) in Blackburn, and in 1974 stood against John Pardoe (Liberal) in North Cornwall. In 1971 she was made a Justice of the Peace.
On 19 June 1981 she was created a life peeress of the United Kingdom as Baroness Gardner of Parkes, of Southgate in Greater London, and of Parkes in the State of New South Wales and Commonwealth of Australia. She was ennobled for her two decades of community and local government work as a Conservative, the first Australian woman to be so honoured. On 4 April 2007 she was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Sydney.
Baroness Gardner can trace her roots back to Ireland to her grandfather, John McGirr, a native of Moneen, Louisburg, County Mayo, who married Mary O'Sullivan from North Cork. Their son was Gardner's father, Gregory, who led the New South Wales Labor Party from March to July 1923. An uncle, James McGirr, was also in Labor politics, becoming Premier of New South Wales (1947–52). A nephew, Dr Jack McGirr, is a dentist at Lane Cove[where?] and is a former Mayor of Lane Cove.
Her husband, Kevin Gardner (1930–2007), was also a native of Australia. He was educated at Waverley College and won a scholarship to the University of Sydney to study dentistry, winning the Arnott Prize for oral surgery in 1954. He spent a year on the university teaching staff at the Sydney Dental Hospital before going to London in 1955. He married Trixie McGirr in 1956 in Paris, and they set up their home in London.
In May 1982, the year after she joined the House of Lords, Kevin was elected to Westminster City Council, where Trixie had been a councillor since 1968. He was the first Australian to be the Lord Mayor of Westminster. He was re-elected as a councillor in 2006 at age 75. Kevin Gardner died the following year, in 2007. The couple had three daughters: Joanna, Rachel and Sarah. Joanna was Lady Mayoress (2008-09) of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London. The Gardner family is devoutly Catholic.
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