Jennie Lee, Baroness Lee of Asheridge, lived from 3 November 1904 to 16 November 1988. She was a socialist and a Labour Party politician. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Jennie Lee was born in Lochgelly, in Fife. Her father was a coalminer who later managed a hotel with her mother. Her father was also a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), and as a child Jennie met many prominent socialists, including James Maxton and David Kirkwood. She was educated at Beath Secondary School before going, with support from the Carnegie Trust, to the University of Edinburgh to study law.
She graduated with an MA, an LLB and a teaching certificate, and Jennie subsequently spent some time teaching in Cowdenbeath before standing as the Independent Labour Party candidate in the 1929 by-election in the North Lanarkshire constituency. She won, becoming the youngest woman to have been elected to the House of Commons. Young, beautiful and exceptionally able, she made an immediate impact. Her maiden speech was an attack on the budget proposals of Winston Churchill, and was so good Churchill later congratulated her on it. As a maverick, however, Jennie did not endear herself to the establishment, even to the socialist establishment. Partly as a result of this, and of her opposition to the formation of Ramsay MacDonald's national government, she lost her seat in the House of Commons at the 1931 General Election.
After taking up her seat in the Commons, Jennie had formed a close attachment with fellow-MP, Frank Wise, a married man. He died in 1933, and in October 1934 Jennie married the left-wing Welsh Labour MP Aneurin or "Nye" Bevan. Later in the 1930s Jennie was active in raising support for the Spanish Popular Front during the Spanish Civil War. She also sided with the ILP when it split from the Labour Party.
Jennie later moved from the ILP to the Labour Party, and at the 1945 General Election was elected as Labour candidate for the Cannock constituency in Staffordshire. She remained a determined socialist, opposing her own party's stance on a number of issues, including the UK nuclear deterrent. Nye Bevin died in 1960. In 1964, Jennie Lee was appointed arts minister in Harold Wilson's government, and amongst other achievements played a central role in the establishment of the Open University. Despite being widely regarded as a success, Jennie lost her ministerial position in 1967. In the 1970 General Election, she lost her seat in the House of Commons and was awarded a peerage as Baroness Lee of Asheridge, of the City of Westminster. She died in 1988 at the age of 83.