With a cake specially baked by Mary Berry and a blue plaque in her honor on her favorite task chair, Dame Jenni Murray admitted it was “very, very strange” to host her last edition of Woman’s Hour after 33 years.
Murray, the longest-serving host of BBC Radio 4, took office in September 1987 and ended her tenure on Thursday, played by Helen Reddy’s anthem I Am Woman.
Ending her show, Murray said she had to constantly remind herself that women are a “wide range” and that there are “many, many, many different stereotypes that match our gender, so there is no there isn’t a stereotypical woman. But our sex, we share.
She was joined live on the show by Labor politician Harriet Harman, lawyer Helena Kennedy, theater manager Jude Kelly and writer Jackie Kay, all of whom paid warm tributes.
Harman said they were all the first generation of women to say they weren’t going to choose between staying home or prioritizing going to work, but they would do both.
“It was an incredible, huge social and economic revolution that was invisible to most broadcasters,” Harman said. “But the woman’s hour, with you right in the heart of the matter, you made space for all these questions to be discussed day by day.”
Without that space, the progress that has been made would never have happened, Harman said. “You are leaving a wonderful legacy and I want to thank you for it.”
Kay said she praised Murray for “holding a mirror to the real world and everything that was going on in there … and the imaginative and cultural world.”
Kelly said Murray was not just a “national treasure,” but an international treasure – the program has fans as far away as Japan.
Lady Kennedy brought up the issue of marital rape, which Murray and Woman’s Hour highlighted. “By giving a public space for debate… it actually sparked the change that took place. By putting it on the air, organizations like the Women’s Institute then invited me to go talk… Women started asking for change. I think it was about being well informed.
Murray told her guests that she preferred a sturdy chair to a chair that wiggles. “It’s green and it’s been there for years. The studio managers have affixed a blue plaque: “Jenni Murray sat for the last time on this chair on October 1, 2020”. “
The program featured a collection of his best moments from 33 years, revealing how Murray never shied away from answering tough questions.
There were excerpts from her interviews with Hillary Clinton (“What has Bill allowed you to forgive his infidelities?”) And Edwina Currie (“How well can you support women when you have set life private public sphere? ”).
A few weeks after joining the program, Murray interviewed 80-year-old Bette Davis. The actor had a creepy reputation, but Murray conquered it, even managing to persuade her to deliver his line from All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts.” It’s going to be a bumpy night.
One of her most regularly terrifying interviewees was Margaret Thatcher, she said. Not so terrified that Murray didn’t bring up the way Francois Mitterrand was lyrical on Thatcher’s Marilyn Monroe lips and Alan Clark was drawn to her ankles.
“Did you play on it?” Did you flirt if you had to? Murray asked. “I didn’t even know they made those comments,” Thatcher replied, looking dismayed. “How should I? “
Murray said she was taken aback by the response, but later realized Thatcher’s publicist Bernard Ingham never dreamed of telling her these things had been said.
The “peak of her career” was telling Joan Baez that her favorite song was Diamonds and Rust, and being delighted that Baez performed it here and there. It left her “sobbing inside because she was so wonderful,” she says.
Murray, born in Barnsley, joined the BBC in 1973, first working for BBC Radio Bristol. After appearing on BBC South Today, Newsnight and the Today show, she became a regular Woman’s Hour presenter in 1987.
Her colleague Jane Garvey has also announced that she is stepping down from her presentation duties, in her case after 13 years. Emma Barnett of Radio 5 Live will take over in the New Year.