Baroness Jennie Lee

One of the first female Members of Parliament, founder of the Open University, alumna.

Lee plaques
Photograph by Walter Bird © National Portrait Gallery


Baroness Jennie Lee was born in Lochgelly, Fife, in November 1904.

Daughter of James Lee, a miner and local branch leader of the Independent Labour Party, her interest in politics began at an early age.

When her family moved to Cowdenbeath, the young Jennie became friends with the owner of a local bookshop, where she read books on socialism.

She later continued her education at the University of Edinburgh, where she studied for her degree in Education and Law.

During her time at Edinburgh, she regularly made speeches on the Mound in Princes Street, discussing socialism and arguing the case for equality for women.


Following a period as a teacher back in Cowdenbeath and continued involvement with the Independent Labour Party, she was elected Labour MP for North Lanark in 1929.

At 24, she was the youngest Member of Parliament at that time.

After a long and varied career, she left the House of Commons in 1970 when she was made Baroness Lee of Asheridge.

She is best known for her time as Minister for the Arts in the 1960s, and her key role in the founding the Open University.

The plaque

Baroness Lee's plaque is in Buccleuch Place.


In honour of Baroness Jennie Lee


An early woman MP, first Minister for the Arts, founder of the Open University, graduate of the University

Related links

Lee's entry in the Gazetteer for Scotland