Tag Archives: Scottish Women

Freda White

For a short time in the sixties and early seventies I had two great female friends. I was in my twenties, Frances Gordon in her fifties and Freda White in her late seventies. I had recently graduated from Glasgow University and was accumulating educational qualifications; Frances had a degree from the LSE gained in the 1930s and was a linchpin in the political and cultural life of Edinburgh; Freda was among the first graduates from Somerville College, Oxford, an author, journalist, campaigner and lecturer of international renown. Continue reading Freda White

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Mary Somerville: A Passion for Science

Mary Somerville was born in Scotland on Dec. 26, 1780, and had four supreme passions in her life: her family, equality for women, science, and birds.

Described as feminine in manner and appearance, as a girl she never cared for dolls. Her mother said she would have been content if Mary had “only learnt to write well and keep accounts which was all that a woman was expected to know.” Mary, however, had a talent for mathematics. She taught herself by listening in on her brother as he was tutored in geometry and by reading Euclid. Continue reading Mary Somerville: A Passion for Science

Dr Elsie Inglis

“In Scotland they made her a Doctor, In Serbia we would have made her a Saint.” – Serbian saying.

Elsie Inglis was born in Naini Tal, India to Scottish parents. Her father was employed by the East India Company and the family returned to Edinburgh in 1878 when Elsie was 14. Elsie’s parents believed, unusual for this time, that both boys and girls should have equal access to education and were supportive of Elsie’s decision to study medicine. Women won the right to obtain medical degrees in 1876 and when the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women was opened in 1886 Elsie decided to study there, graduating in 1892. Continue reading Dr Elsie Inglis

Lady Anne Cunningham

Lady Anne (or Anna) Cunningham was a Scottish noblewoman, businesswoman, and warrior, born at the end of the sixteenth century into the tumultuous of world of the European Reformation.

Daughter of a wealthy Protestant noble family, in 1603 she was married to the fourteen-year-old James Hamilton, and over time they had eight children. Her husband inherited his father’s lands and title in 1604, and consequently spent much of his time at court, leaving Anne to manage their estates, which she did competently: she was evidently educated and had a good head for business, undertaking projects such as the improvement of the family palace and the development of industrial projects like coal mines. Continue reading Lady Anne Cunningham

Mairi Mhor Nan Oran

Skye Gaelic bard and Highland Land League shero, Mairi Mhor Nan Oran.

Mairi Mhor Nan Oran was many things; a nurse and midwife, a one-time prisoner and most notably a gaelic poet and songstress. It was through this work that she earned her shero status and, due to her body type, the name Mairi Mhor Nan Oran, meaning Big Mary of the Songs.

Mairi Mhor was born in Skeabost, on the Isle of Skye in 1821. She was born Mary MacDonald, into a crofting family. Her early life was characterized by the rural and domestic arts typical of her gender and social class, crofting work and home textile production. In her 27th year she moved to Inverness and married a shoemaker by the name of Isaac MacPherson. Around the age of 50 in 1872, Mairi Mhor, whilst engaged in domestic work, was imprisoned for stealing clothes from her mistress. The charge was widely considered to have been unjust.

Continue reading Mairi Mhor Nan Oran