Born in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Barker's father was an Independent Labour Party activist and served a term as Mayor of Halifax. Barker studied at Halifax Technical College, and with the Workers Educational Association, and became active in the Labour Party. At the age of sixteen, she became the women's officer for the local branch of the party.
In 1935, Barker was appointed as secretary and agent for the Halifax branch of the Labour Party, and she gradually rose to prominence, becoming the party's Yorkshire women's officer in 1942, assistant national agent in 1951, and Chief Women's Officer in 1960. In 1962, she became National Agent for the party, the first women to hold this post.
|Party political offices|
| Labour Party Assistant National Agent
| Labour Party Chief Women's Officer
| Labour Party National Agent