Born Barbara Ann Deeks in 1937, the daughter of a dressmaker and a bus driver, Barbara Windsor was an only child. She was also and extremely bright child, passing her 11-plus exams with the highest mark in North London. Her mother, Rosie, worked extra hours to pay for elocution lessons for her daughter ("a true East End snob" according to Babs). Babs' mother was a driving force in her early years, moving the family (by now she had remarried) from Shoreditch to Stamford Hill, and did not want her daughter to go into showbusiness, preferring the more stable life of a telephone operator! As a child, Babs loved singing and dancing, and it was after a visit to the theatre with her grandfather, when she got the opportunity to go backstage and from that point decided that showbusiness was going to be her life. Babs entered the business at an early age, first attending Madame Behenna's Juvenile Follies and then the Aida Foster School; winning her first stage role at the age of 12 (she played one of the babes in a London pantomime).
In 1952 she got a job in the chorus of Love From Lucy and stayed in the show for the following 2 years. A number of minor film roles ensued, but Babs remained largely on the stage. Two major film roles in 1962 (Death Trap and Sparrows Can't Sing) followed, resulting in greater recognition for the actress, but it wasn't until an audition for "Fings Ain't What they Used to Be" that Babs found true fame. This audition was almost a failure, when she mistook the producer, Joan Littlewood, for the cleaning lady, but Babs soon won the leading role as Rosie. The show was a huge success and led to a series of major parts in similar musicals.
Babs' career really took off following her appearance in Carry On Spying. Nervous at working with such an established cast, she soon ran into an irate Kenneth Williams, proclaiming her to be inept and totally unsuitable for the role. Babs stood her ground and shouted right back at him, and a lifelong friendship began (Williams even accompanied Babs on her honeymoon). Eternally cast as the glamorous dolly bird, Babs is the ultimate Carry On girl in the eyes of many, even though she only appeared in a total of 9 films. She made her last Carry On appearance in Carry On Dick, refusing to appear in later films, because she thought they had gone beyond the innocent sauciness which initially drew her to the series.
Babs returned to the Carry On fray in the 1992 stage show Wot a Carry On in Blackpool, alongside Bernard Bresslaw. It was a happy reunion and, to date, remains the last official Carry On stage production.
In recent years, she has appeared in the long-running soap opera, East Enders, playing Peggy Mitchell, mother of the increasingly unlovable rogues Grant and Phil. It is a part she loves, and she has since become a firm favourite with both her colleagues and the audience of the most popular show on British television. She does note the irony, however, that her mother spent a fortune on elocution lessons to make her sound more upmarket, only to end up playing the ultimate East-Ender.