James Chichester-Clark, in Switzerland, 1931
Dame Dehra S. Parker, GBE, PC (NI) (13 August 1882 - 30 November 1963) was the longest serving woman MP in the Northern Ireland House of Commons.
Dehra Kerr-Fisher was born in a military hospital in Dehra Dun, north of Delhi, India, in 1882, the daughter of James Kerr-Fisher of Kilrea, County Londonderry. She was educated in America, where her father held extensive property holdings, and in Germany . The surname has been spelled, alternatively as Ker-Fisher or Ker Fisher.
She was married on two occasions, firstly to Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Peel Dawson Spencer Chichester, MP (d. 1921) with whom she had one son and one daughter, both of whom predeceased her.
She married, secondly, Admiral Henry Wise Parker (CB, CMG) on 4 June 1928.
Dame Dehra was first elected as a Member of Parliament for Londonderry, as Dehra Chichester (which she was known as prior to her second marriage in 1928), in the Northern Ireland general election, 1921. She stood down at the 1929 election but was again elected in the 1933 election for the South Londonderry constituency following the death of her son-in-law, and served until her resignation on 15 June 1960.
From her re-election in 1933 until her retirement in 1960, Dame Dehra faced opposition only once. During the 1949 Northern Ireland General Election, with anti-partition agitation a common theme across the region, she was opposed in South Londonderry by a Nationalist Party candidate, T.B. Agnew, whom she defeated.
She was a Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education from 1 December 1937 to 15 March 1944. Dame Dehra was also Chair of the Northern Ireland General Health Services Board from 1948 to 1949. She served as Minster of Health and Local Government from 26 August 1949 to 13 March 1957 and became a member of the Privy Council of Northern Ireland in 1949.
Her promotion to the Cabinet under Viscount Brookeborough was part of his reforming premiership; his predecessor having been criticised for appointing very elderly members to Cabinet. She was the first woman to serve in the Northern Ireland Cabinet.
Outside of parliamentary activities Dame Dehra was a long-serving local councillor on Magherafelt rural district council, president of both the Northern Ireland Physical Training Association and the Girls' Training Corps, chairman of the Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee, and chairman and later president of the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts in the province.
She died at her home, Shanemullagh House, Castledawson, County Londonderry, on 28 November 1963, aged 81. She was interred two days later in the grounds of Christ Church, Castledawson.
Her grandson, James Chichester-Clark, was elected unopposed at the by-election caused by her resignation in 1960.