FOR the first time ONFife Cultural Trust is staging a Women of Fife event on Saturday March 9 to mark International Women’s Day.

Highlights include talks on Fife trailblazers such as Jennie Lee, an early pioneer of the Open University which celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year.

At the time of her election the Lochgelly woman was the youngest MP in the House of Commons and women her age could not vote.

Born in Lochgelly, the daughter of a miner who was a branch leader of the Independent Labour Party, Jennie 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.

Growing up, she loved reading and would while away hours down at the local bookshop on Cowdenbeath High Street, and found herself particularly taken by The Story Of The Working Class Throughout The Age.

The library at Lochgelly Centre is now named after Jennie Lee

After being appointed Britain's first Minister of Arts under Harold Wilson's Government, she tackled accessibility head-on, believing that culture should always be inclusive.

Jennie Lee’s vision included supporting the building of London’s South Bank complex and even producing the manifesto: A Policy for the Arts in 1965, the first white paper of its kind.

Also featured in the day’s programme is Mary Somerville, who spent her childhood in Burntisland, and was described by The Morning Post as the ‘queen of science’.

She was the first female member to be jointly nominated for the Royal Astronomical Society at the same time as Caroline Herschel. Somerville College, Oxford was named after her and she was the first signature on John Stuart Mill’s massive but unsuccessful 1868 petition to Parliament campaigning for women’s right to vote.

The suffragette theme is explored in more detail with the fascinating stories of the leading Fife suffragettes. The relationship between the movement and St Andrews University will also be explored during the conference.

How Museums have affected women’s role throughout art history is considered by ONFife curator Nicola Wilson.

Nicola explains: “Although 74% majority of fine art graduates in the UK are women, it's estimated that only 13% of new acquisitions of contemporary & modern art have been made by women in the last five years. "Fife Council’s collection contains artwork from some of leading women in Scottish art including Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Elizabeth Blackadder, Joan Eardley and Alison Watt.

"We have 48 women artists represented within the art collection, however, their artworks make up less than 5% of the overall art collection.”

A research project to campaign for a pardon for the Fife witches put to death during the 15th and 16th centuries is also covered during the conference.

This free ONFife event and conference is at Rothes Halls, Glenrothes on Saturday March 9 from 10am until 4pm. There will be a soft play area for children. More details at