Queen Scene

Celebrating Jennie Lee

How did one Lochgelly lass change the face of education? Find out at the Lochgelly Centre until 6 March 2020.

Jennie Lee: From Lochgelly to The Lords opened at the Lochgelly Centre on Friday 6 December 2019. 

Jennie Lee (1904-1988) was an MP before she was old enough to vote. She caused uproar in parliament during her first speech, in which she accused Winston Churchill of “corruption and incompetence”. 

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

Lee 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. 

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.”

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.”

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

The exhibition was on display at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library from 30 October 2019 before moving to Lochgelly at the start of December.  

An online exhibition of the OU Jennie Lee Archive Collection is available on the OU’s Digital Archive

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