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Clip: Jennie Lee
Duration: 00:00:42
Date: 1983
Baronness Jennie Lee of Asheridge laying the foundation stone for the Open University's first library building.
Image : Jennie Lee Library foundation stone event
Date: 27-04-1973

When Labour won the election in 1964, Harold Wilson appointed Jennie Lee as Minister for the Arts and asked her to take over the university of the air project.

Jennie (Janet) Lee was born in Lochgelly, Fife, on the 3rd November 1904. Jennie became interested in politics at an early age. Her grandfather Michael Lee was deeply involved in local politics, establishing the Fifeshire Federation of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), later chaired by Jennie's father. The ILP became a large part of Lee family life. Jennie became deeply interested in the Socialist movement and attended the Socialist Sunday School.

Jennie attended Edinburgh University as a trainee teacher in 1922 and remained there for five years, largely supported by bursaries. In 1929 she was nominated by the Labour Movement in Shotts as the ILP candidate for North Lanark and she stormed to victory. At 24, she was to be the youngest member of the House of Commons.

In 1934 Jennie married Aneurin 'Nye' Bevan (1897-1960). Following Labour's win in the 1964 General Election, Harold Wilson appointed Jennie Minister for the Arts and additionally tasked her with his university of the air project.

Without Jennie Lee, it seems likely that Harold Wilson's idea would have failed. Her total commitment and tenacity gradually wore down the mountains of hostility and indifference that she faced.

This short video clip shows part of an interview with Jennie Lee about the creation of The Open University. The clip comes from the programme Countdown to the OU 1 first broadcast in 1983.

This image shows Jennie Lee at the event to lay the foundation stone of the Jennie Lee Library at the OU Walton Hall campus in 1973. The Institute of Educational Technology is now located on the same site within the new Jennie Lee building.

Watch Jennie Lee's OU staff club lecture from 1975 to find out more about her role in the creation of the OU. 

1963-1969 (page 2 of 3)