Celebration of Edinburgh Women Across the Years This International Women’s Day

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, Museums & Galleries Edinburgh curators have taken the opportunity to shine a light on a selection of outstanding women from Edinburgh’s past.  

Five pioneering women, whose lives are reflected in the city’s history collections, have been chosen. The respective choices of History Curators Victoria Garrington and  Anna MacQuarrie are Edinburgh’s first female Town Councillor, Ella Morrison Millar (1869-1959) and  Edinburgh-born suffragist Nannie (Agnes Henderson) Brown (1866 -1943). 

Museum of Childhood Curator, Lyn Stevens has gone for Lileen Hardy (1872-1947) who in 1906 opened the St. Saviour’s Child Garden  in the Canongate, while Applied Art Curator, Helen Edwards went for Helen Monro Turner (1901-1977) who founded the studio glass department at Edinburgh College of Art. Last but not least,  Collections Care Officer, Gwen Thomas chose Ena Thomson (1907-1989) who served as an Air Raid Warden in Edinburgh’s Air Raid Precaution corps (ARP) during WWII. 

The story of each woman will be showcased using linked objects from the collection that  include a studio portrait of Nannie Brown;  a pair of Ella Morrison Miller’s gold leather shoes purchased from Darlings, a well-known department store in Edinburgh during the 1930’s, and the WWII ARP identification papers for Ena Thomson. These objects and others have been unearthed as part of the ongoing Auld Reekie Retold inventory project which is working to connect Edinburgh’s people to its collections. 

The series that will be introduced by Vice Convenor of Culture & Communities Councillor Amy McNeese-Mechan and will be shared online via the Museums & Galleries Edinburgh social media channels and website. 

The involved curators will reveal full details of each woman’s story alongside the items from the collection that connects their own history, providing insight into the city’s history from just a few of the women who helped shape Edinburgh. 

The series is accompanied by a programme of free digital lectures and family events including Scots Women who Chose to Challenge with Jackie Sangster who is a Learning Manager at Historic Environment Scotland; Aunts: In Fact & Fiction with Ruthanne Baxter, Museums Manager and Prescribe Culture Lead at the University of Edinburgh; An (Almost) A to Z of Modern Scottish Women Artists with Alice Strang, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Galleries of Scotland. Add to this, Look Outside, a family craft event inspired by the work of artist Kate Downie and Votes for Women, The Keystone to Liberty, a digital performance from Edinburgh Living History.

Councillor McNeese-Mechan said, It is fascinating to learn about how our collections both preserve and mirror the work of women in Edinburgh’s civic and cultural life. This series shines a light on five women who made significant contributions to our city’s history but who sadly are far from well known.

I hope the stories of these wonderful women will inspire you and I look forward to more discoveries from the Auld Reekie Retold project.”

The event will run from 8th till 12th March and full details and bookings are on the Edinburgh Museums website.

Irene Brown

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