John Smith, the party leader, said of the veteran campaigner: 'No one in the history of our party has fought harder or to greater effect on behalf of women.'
Her battles, waged latterly alongside an increasingly debilitating struggle against arthritis, encompassed workplace creches, equal opportunities for jobs and promotion, and for lesbians' rights to have custody of their children. She campaigned against 'girlie' pictures in newspapers and the tightening of abortion law - and to ensure that the Tribune newspaper remained the province of the left.
A long-time member of the party's ruling National Executive Committee and the Shadow Cabinet, she had been MP for Barking since 1974 and served as the party's spokeswoman on women's issues for nine years. She was an organiser of CND's Aldermaston marches and was one of the Labour rebels who opposed the Falklands war.
Her death means a second by-election in a Labour-held seat. Jimmy Boyce, the MP for the ultra-safe Rotherham, died last week. Mr Smith said Ms Richardson was a 'fine MP and personal friend' who had served the Labour movement with passion and distinction.
She once said: 'I'm not all that interested in the high-achieving woman . . . I'm concerned about all the women with expertise and wisdom who never get to first base; they're poor, they've got kids, they're struggling to hold on to a low-paid, part-time job. Their lives are drudgery.'
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