Once described as having the most beautiful voice on radio, she has hosted the show for 33 years. During that time, she broached a wide variety of topics, held politicians to account, and shed light on devastating stories of persecution and rape of women around the world.
She said: “I have spent almost half of my life with Woman’s Hour and it has been a privilege and a pleasure to inform, educate and entertain a loyal and growing audience of women and men. Saying goodbye will be very difficult to do, but it’s time to move on. “Her gentle and reassuring interview style could appeal to the unsuspecting, only to quickly throw herself in with the most penetrating and relevant questions. Politicians have often found themselves helpless. She confronted Margaret Thatcher about his childcare policies and asked Gordon Brown if, as Chancellor, he would show his wife his tax returns.
Few questions were forbidden to Murray; Edwina Currie was asked when she last had a smear. The high profile figures she interviewed during her tenure ranged from Margaret Atwood to Benazir Bhutto and Dame Judi Dench. Joan Baez sang Diamonds & Rust in the studio especially for her.
Born in Barnsley, Murray began her broadcasting career at BBC Radio Bristol in 1973, before reporting and presenting on BBC television’s South Today show. She joined Newsnight in 1983, before moving to Radio 4 as the presenter of Today.
She became the regular presenter of Woman’s Hour in 1987 and, in 2011, was named lady in recognition of her contribution to broadcasting. Its final program will take place on October 1.
She often shared her own life experience with fans. When, in 2006, she announced at the end of Woman’s Hour that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, the response was overwhelming, with goodwill messages pouring into the BBC from thousands of listeners.
Returning to the program after the treatment, she told listeners that the most emotionally upsetting moment was the loss of her hair, then used it to explore the centrality of hair in definitions of femininity.
Another issue she shared was her lifelong battle with her weight, having been overweight, even obese, for much of her adult life. It’s a topic she covered in more detail in the most recent of several books, Fat Cow, Fat Chance, in which she recounts her struggle to control her weight, which has between 14 and 24 stones, and the diets that ‘she tried. years. She finally opted for a surgical route, opting at 65 for an irreversible “sleeve gastrectomy” procedure, in which a large part of the stomach is removed.
Off the air, she courted controversy in 2017 with an article in the Sunday Times magazine in which she questioned the claims of transgender women to be considered “real women.” The article was titled: “Jenni Murray: Be Trans, Be Proud – But Don’t Think Of Yourself As A Real Woman.” She wrote: “I know that in writing this article I am entering the most controversial and, at times, vicious, vulgar and threatening debate of our time. I dive head first into deep and dangerous waters. The response was swift, with Stonewall’s campaign manager condemning her views as offensive. She was then forced to withdraw from a lecture at Oxford University following a backlash over her comments.
Tony Hall, outgoing BBC Managing Director said: “Jenni Murray is a remarkable broadcaster and few have matched her exceptional contribution to the BBC and to our audiences.
“For over three decades, Jenni has been an incomparable and warm voice who has interviewed many of the world’s best-known women and helped illuminate important issues. Radio waves will not be the same without it.
Mohit Bakaya, Controller of Radio 4, said: “Jenni is one of Radio 4’s most beloved voices. For over 30 years, she has tackled important issues on behalf of listeners, opening conversations. sometimes difficult on the experience of women and shed light on subjects which have often unfortunately been neglected.
“I want to thank her for her wonderful commitment to Woman’s Hour, to Radio 4 in general, and for the passion she has shown for the topics explored during her time on the show. I wish him the best in his future plans.
A new Woman’s Hour host will be announced in due course, according to the BBC.
Highlights from Jenni Murray’s Three Decades on Woman’s Hour
Hillary Clinton, interviewed by Murray in 2014, was asked why she remained in her marriage despite her humiliations. Murray said Clinton went on to give him “the most fabulous interview.” When I asked her why, while her husband had repeatedly humiliated her, she had stayed with him, she spoke of marriage as a friendship, not necessarily of sex. She said: “When we first met we were in college, where we struck up a conversation. We still have this conversation. ”
Monica Lewinsky, meanwhile, when questioned years earlier was asked why she hadn’t washed that stain from her dress.
Tessa Jowell was asked, “As a feminist that you are, are we to believe that you signed a mortgage on your house for your husband, not knowing exactly how it was going to be paid off?”
Few of the guests had let her down, Murray said in a 2017 Radio Times interview. “The people who are really top ranked make the effort to be the best they can be. Oprah Winfrey is a good example. “She didn’t make any bones on her weight going up and down. She said, “What kind of life is it without a fries?” ”
Among the most embarrassing was his interview with Margaret Thatcher, who had, Murray said, “those blue eyes that plunge you”. There was an uncomfortable meeting in 1993 after he was ousted from his post as prime minister. Murray asked how she dealt with sexist comments, such as Alan Clark’s reference to her “pretty ankles”, or Francois Mitterrand saying she had “Caligula’s eyes and Marilyn Monroe’s lips”.
“She looked at me and didn’t speak,” recalls Murray. Later it seemed to her that Thatcher’s press secretary might not have shown her all the newspaper clippings and that “when I presented these things to her she was really shocked.”