Glenda Jackson was born on Merseyside and studied acting at RADA in London. After qualifying, she debuted on the West End in Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables in 1957, before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company for four seasons. In 1969, she won an Oscar for her starring role in Women in Love, a controversial adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel. She famously shaved her head for the leading role in the BBC's 1971 drama Elizabeth R, while at the same time exploring comic roles in recurring appearances on the Morecambe and Wise show. Her second Oscar came for a comic role in 1973's A Touch of Class.
Jackson retired from acting in 1992 to stand as the Labour candidate for Hampstead and Highgate. She was elected, becoming the first Labour candidate to win the seat since 1966. After the 1997 election, she was appointed as a junior minister in the Department of Transport with specific responisibility for London's transport network. She resigned this post to seek the Labour candidacy in the first election for the Mayor of London, but lost out to Frank Dobson, who in turn lost the mayoral election to independent candidate Ken Livingstone.
After resigning her ministerial position, Jackson became a prominent back-bencher. She opposed top-up fees and the Iraq war, and was one of the first to call for an inquiry into the way the Iraq war was conducted. For the 2010 general election, the boundaries of her constituency were changed, and she won her seat with a majority of only 42, the second smallest of the night.