Fisher, Patricia (1921–95), politician and charity worker, was born Patricia Smiles on 5 April 1921, daughter of Lt-col. Sir Walter Dorling Smiles (1883–1953) of Donaghadee, Co. Down, and his wife Margaret Heighway of Manchester, England. Her great-grandfather was the author Samuel Smiles and her great-aunt was the home economist Mrs Beeton. Sir Walter Smiles was conservative MP for Blackburn (1931–45) and unionist MP for Down (1945–50) and Down North (1950–53). Patricia was educated at Bangor Collegiate School, at Glendower School, London, and on the Continent. She married (22 February 1941) Neville Montagu Ford, son of the dean of York, and the couple settled in Cheshire. After her father's death (31 January 1953) in the sinking of MV Princess Victoria, she was elected unopposed, as ‘Patricia Ford’, to his Ulster Unionist seat of Down North (April 1953–1955), and became the first woman from Northern Ireland to take a seat at Westminster. At 31 she was among the youngest members, and at almost 6 ft (1.8 m) was certainly the tallest female MP. Allegedly unwilling to stand, she was persuaded by local unionists who counted on her to garner the sympathy vote. Her inauguration was not propitious: a lighthearted but indiscreet article in the Sunday Express describing her first week in the house greatly annoyed two female Labour MPs alluded to therein, and Ford was forced in her maiden speech to apologise to her colleagues. Subsequently she spoke competently on motions relating to Northern Ireland's economy and on women's issues – in 1954 she and three other female MPs rode horse-drawn carriages (reminiscent of the campaigns for female suffrage) to the house of commons to deliver a petition demanding equal pay for women. However, she never settled into parliament, finding the atmosphere constricting, and, she did not seek reelection in 1955. The following year, having been divorced by her first husband, she married (28 August 1956) the conservative MP Nigel Fisher, who was later a junior minister under Harold Macmillan and was knighted in 1974. The Fishers were liberal in outlook; Lady Fisher 's attendance at a requiem mass at Brompton Oratory led to condemnation from the Orange order. Though she lived predominantly in London, she kept in close contact with Northern Ireland, and after visiting impoverished catholic neighbourhoods in Ballymurphy she founded in 1972 the Women Caring Trust, an organisation for children in need in the province, which supported integrated schooling. She was its chairman for nineteen years and president from 1991 until her death in London on 23 May 1995. She was survived by her stepdaughter and stepson, the Labour MP Mark Fisher, and by her two daughters from her first marriage, one of whom married the conservative MP Sir Michael Grylls.
Hansard 5 (commons), dxix, dxxiv, dxxxvi (1953–5); John F. Harbinson, The Ulster Unionist Party, 1882–1973 (1973); M. Stenton and S. Lees (ed.), Who's who of British members of parliament, 1832–85 (1976); Walker; Daily Telegraph, 25 May 1995; Times, 27 May 1995; WWW; ODNB