OGDEN — Janet Shipton likes to think of herself as her husband’s wife, and not so much her father’s daughter.
She is quick to say she loved her father and cherishes the times she spent walking with him and talking politics – something they did quite often, considering he was Great Britain’s prime minister from 1945 to 1951.
Shipton’s father was Clement Richard Attlee, a beloved political leader in England during tough times – the Depression, World War II and the tough years following the war were the years he served as prime minister.
Shipton was a young woman when her dad took office, and though she never resided at No. 10 Downing St., she visited there often. She remembers her first visit there after her dad was made prime minister.
“Things weren’t as protected then, and I just walked right up to the door,” Shipton said, smiling at the memory. She was in the Royal Air Force at the time and went to the door in her uniform, not an uncommon sight at the time.
Shipton moved to the Harrison Regent retirement home in Ogden in November. She has lived in the Ogden area since 2006. She and her husband moved to the area to be close to her granddaughter, but she immigrated to the United States in 1954 when her husband, whom she lovingly refers to as “Shippy,” came to start a biomedical core program at the University of Iowa. They reared their children in Iowa and then moved to St. Louis where he taught at Washington University for 20 years.The couple then moved to Florida when her husband was stricken with Parkinson’s disease and then settled in Utah where he died in 2007.
She has lived a very full life. Now 88, she said she is starting to feel her age, although she has always acted young.
“No one in our family is very mature for their age,” she said with a laugh.
Shipton was the oldest of four children, and when her father became the prime minister she was a little more removed from things than her younger siblings. For her, having a prime minister for a father wasn’t a difficult thing.
“I didn’t have a challenging role because I was a grown-up child,” she said, still speaking with a pronounced British accent. “My poor mother. We were just an ordinary family, and then she was moving intoNo. 10 Downing St.”
She remembers that Clementine Churchill, wife of Winston Churchill,who preceded Attlee as prime minister, helped her mother learn her duties as prime minister’s wife, and her sister loved attending the parties and events that were required.
“I liked living my life as my husband’s wife, and then when I am in England, I am my father’s daughter,” she said. “It is really like playing a role, like acting, you see.”
Her most cherished memory of that time was visiting Chequers, the country residence of the prime minister in Buckinghamshire. She loved the country, and that’s where she took her husband to ask her father for her hand in marriage.
“My father was wonderful,” she said.
She remembers detectives always being around and said they looked into her husband’s background.
“He completely trusted my judgment,” she said of her father.“(Shipton) had no money, no looks, really not much of anything,” she said.
But her father knew her mind, and he knew she would marry Shipton anyway, so he was kind about it.
She married in Bristol the Thursday before Queen Elizabeth’s wedding. All of her guests came in on a train, and she remembers it was a very delicate process to plan to the wedding.
“When you are a prime minister, you have many decisions to make, and planning a date for a daughter’s wedding can be difficult,” she said.
She speaks with pride of her father and his many accomplishments while in office, including his work in India. She has photos on the wall showing him during his days as prime minister.Many other English touchesare in place as well, such as the porcelain tea cups on a shelf on the wall.
Her only regret is the time she didn’t get to spend with her father. He went into Parliament in the 1920s and was politically active all of her life. That’s why the time at Chequers was always so special for her.
She said she doesn’t like to tell people right away who she is.
“I want people to know me for me,” she said, but some people figure it out before she shares the information. She has always tried to stay active politically, because politics is something she feels strongly about.
She plans to talk about her life experiences at a presentation at 3 p.m.
Jan. 19 at the Harrison Regent, 4481 Harrison Blvd.