Glenda Jackson was born into a working-class family in Birkenhead, Wirral, then Cheshire now Merseyside, across the River Mersey from Liverpool and her father was a bricklayer. She attended the West Kirby County Grammar School for Girls, then worked for two years in a Boots pharmacy store, before studying at RADA in Bloomsbury.
Having studied acting at RADA, Jackson made her professional stage debut in Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables in 1957, and her film debut in This Sporting Life in 1963. Subsequently a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for four years, she worked for director Peter Brook in several productions, including of Peter Weiss' Marat/Sade as Charlotte Corday. Jackson also appeared in the film version.
Fame came with Jackson's starring role in the controversial Women in Love (1969) for which she won her first Academy Award for Best Actress, and another controversial role as Tchaikovsky's nymphomaniac wife in Ken Russell's The Music Lovers added to her image of being prepared to do almost anything for her art.
She confirmed this by having her head shaved in order to play Queen Elizabeth I of England in the BBC's 1971 blockbuster serial, Elizabeth R. Her portrayal of Elizabeth I is considered unparalled in accuracy by Elizabethan scholars.She received two Emmy Awards for her work in this series.
In the same year, she also appeared in a BBC Morecambe and Wise Show, playing Cleopatra in a comedy sketch which is generally recognised as one the funniest sequences in British TV history.
Filmmaker Melvin Frank watched this and saw her comedic potential and offered her the lead female role in his next project. She earned a second Academy Award for Best Actress for this particular comic role in A Touch of Class (1973), and Eric and Ernie apparently sent her a telegram saying: 'Stick with us kid, and we'll get you a third!'.
She also portrayed Queen Elizabeth in a film about the life of Mary, Queen of Scots and she has been recognised as one of Britain's leading actresses. In 1978, she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Until recently, a theatre and arts academy in Borough Road, Birkenhead was named after her. It has been demolished by Wirral Council and replaced with flats.