Jo Cox was passionate campaigner, activist and humanitarian; a proud Yorkshire lass and internationalist; and a devoted mum, daughter, sister, wife, friend and MP.
She was driven by her belief that a fairer, kinder and more tolerant world was possible. She believed passionately that even the greatest challenges could be overcome. On 16th June 2016, on her way to a constituency surgery to meet with local residents of Batley and Spen, Jo was murdered because of her beliefs.
Jo lived by the words she expressed in her first speech in Parliament: “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us”
Growing Up In Yorkshire
Jo grew up in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire as part of a close family, with her parents Gordon and Jean and younger sister Kim, with whom she was best friends.
Jo was shy during her childhood, but excelled during her school years at Heckmondwike Grammar School, becoming head girl and an accomplished swimmer.
Studying at Cambridge
Jo became the first member of her family to go to university, gaining a place at Pembroke College at Cambridge University to study Archaeology and Anthropology, but later transferred to Social and Political Sciences. Having come from a working-class, Northern background, Jo initially struggled to adapt to life at Cambridge and experienced loneliness during her early months of studying. In true Jo style, she overcame this difficult start and went on to achieve academic success and forge life-long friendships.
Starting her political career
Jo had thought about the idea of becoming an MP for her local constituency since visiting Parliament at age 15. Upon graduating in 1995,Jo worked as a parliamentary adviser to labour MP Joan Walley before moving to Brussels to become a political advisor to Glenys Kinnock MEP. She later became Chair of the Women’s Labour Network.
Fighting for a Fairer World
Jo joined Oxfam in 2001 as Head of the European Office in Brussels before returning to England to start her role as Head of Policy and Advocacy in 2005, playing a key role in the Make Poverty History campaign. Her deep care for humanitarian issues, particularly related to conflict in Darfur and Democratic Republic of Congo led to her appointment as Head of Humanitarian Campaigns for Oxfam in 2007 based in New York.
Protecting Women and Children
Jo passionately fought for the rights of women and children, directing the Maternal Mortality Campaign with Sarah Brown at White Ribbon Alliance and working for organisations including Save the Children UK and the NSPCC.
Becoming a Mother
Jo married Brendan Cox in 2009 and together they had two children; Cuillin and Lejla. Jo loved being a mum. She was never happier than when she was with her children. She embraced motherhood with her usual enthusiasm, and even though she found it exhausting at times, she loved every single minute.Jo always put her children first, even voting in the Chamber of the house in her cycling clothes so she could make it home for bedtime.
Becoming a Member of Parliament
In early 2015, Jo heard that the current MP for Batley and Spen was retiring. Despite the poor timing with having two young children, she chose to seize the opportunity to make her dream of becoming MP for Batley and Spen - her home constituency - a reality. That year, she was selected from an all-women shortlist to become the Labour candidate in the 2015 general election. After a tough campaign, she went on to win with 43.2% of the vote, increasing the Labour majority.
In her short-time in parliament, Jo made a huge impact and gained respect across the house. She campaigned passionately on a range of local, national and international issues, including education equality, improving support for children with autism, achieving a 50:50 parliament, tackling loneliness and protecting civilians in conflict.
She was a much-loved MP in her constituency of Batley and Spen.
Learn about Jo's humanitarian career
The public reaction to Jo's death – in Yorkshire, across Britain and around the world – showed that the values she lived by are widely shared. And the way in which so many people continue to respond so positively more than three years after she was killed is testimony to the fact that those values are enduring and unshakeable.
Inspired by Jo, The Jo Cox Foundation was set up to channel the energy and determination generated by Jo’s life and tragic death into practical efforts to advance the causes she championed.
Support us in building Jo's legacy: