Lochgelly hosts exhibition to celebrate Jennie Lee’s career

The life of Jennie Lee, the miner’s daughter from Lochgelly who helped establish The Open University, is celebrated in a new exhibition that opens in her home town.

Thursday, 12th December 2019, 10:03 am
Miss Jennie Lee - Minister of State in the Department of Education and Science - Opens the Scotsman International Book Jacket Exhibition and the Scotsman Steps Art Exhibition
Miss Jennie Lee - Minister of State in the Department of Education and Science - Opens the Scotsman International Book Jacket Exhibition and the Scotsman Steps Art Exhibition

Jennie Lee: From Lochgelly to The Lords is on at the Lochgelly Centre until March 6.

The exhibition was previously on show at the Glasgow Mitchell Library.

Jennie was an MP before she was old enough to vote.

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She caused uproar in parliament during her first speech, in which she accused Winston Churchill of “corruption and incompetence”.

She was a Labour rebel who protested the introduction of prescription and dental charges, and was the first UK Minister for the Arts, and arguably the most influential.

Jennie was in her 60s when she produced the White Paper that outlined the plans for what would become The Open University, which was supported enthusiastically by Prime Minister Harold Wilson and called “blithering nonsense” by other MPs.

Susan Stewart, director of The Open University in Scotland said: “Jennie Lee fought passionately for a university open to all, regardless of educational background.

“She left a massive legacy, with more than 200,000 Scots and two million people worldwide studying with the OU in its fifty years.

“It’s important to acknowledge the Scottish roots of the OU and I hope that this exhibition will help to keep Jennie’s story alive.”

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Heather Stuart, chief executive of the Fife Cultural Trust, said: “Jennie Lee encapsulates what Fife Cultural Trust is all about - opening doors to inspiring experiences and making learning and culture available to all.

“She was one of our own from Lochgelly, and we are incredibly proud to be so closely associated with her formative years and to be safeguarding her legacy for future generations to know just how much of a trailblazer she was.

“We are particularly proud to have developed the Jennie Lee Library as part of Lochgelly Centre and it is indicative of her impact that it was the local townspeople themselves who chose to name the library after Jennie in order to pay homage to her.”

In the exhibition archive materials from the OU Jennie Lee Archive Collection, Glasgow City Archives and Fife Cultural Trust have been brought together for the first time to tell the fascinating story of her life, from her childhood in Lochgelly to her final years in the House of Lords.

It’s a rare opportunity to see original archive materials on display.

Claire Baker MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife and a relative of Jennie Lee, said: “It is wonderful to see this exhibition on Jennie Lee, celebrating her life and recognising her legacy.

“This display of personal, political and public papers offers a wonderful insight into the life of a ground-breaking woman, from her childhood in Fife to her time in government and latterly the House of Lords.”

An online exhibition of the OU Jennie Lee Archive Collection can also be found on The Open University’s website.