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Jennie Lee


(Baroness Asheridge)

1904 - 1988

Politician. Born in Lochgelly (Fife), the daughter of a miner who was a branch leader of the Independent Labour Party. Lee was brought up in Cowdenbeath and educated at the University of Edinburgh. Elected to represent North Lanarkshire in 1929, she became the youngest Member of Parliament of her time.

In 1934, she married the Welsh Member of Parliament Aneurin Bevan. Despite her feminism and instincts of equality, Lee took a back-seat while Bevan rose to become one of the political heavy-weights of the wartime parliament and architect of the National Health Service.

Her left-wing principles kept her out of Parliament until she was re-elected for an English constituency in 1945. After Bevan died in 1960, Lee came to the fore and was able to make her most memorable contributions. Appointed Britain's first Minister of Arts in 1964, she was able to significantly increase funding for the arts. Her most memorable contribution was the creation of the Open University, which made a university-level education much more achievable for ordinary people.


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