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Women’s History Scotland exists to promote study and research in women’s and gender history, particularly for those working in Scotland or working on Scottish themes. It has a commitment to history at all levels and aims to provide a network of information and support to all. Browse our website for news of activities and projects concerning women’s and gender history in Scotland.

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Out Gallivanting – Researching women’s history with Aberdeen Women’s Alliance

Aberdeen Women’s Alliance organises workshops on researching women’s history.   These workshops are aimed at the general public, who might not know what sources are available to those with no formal research experience.  Yesterday (22 Feb 2017) archivist Fiona Musk displayed a range of items from the NHS Grampian archive from the C18th to the mid C20th, including registers of nurses and patients , photographs,  rules for student nurses,  and minute books.

Fiona had presented a similar workshop two years ago, but I had missed it. I was determined not to miss this one.  AWA have campaigned for a plaque to Maggie Myles, internationally known author of “Textbook for Midwives” and so we were particularly interested to see the Staff Register entry for Myles.  (Aberdeen City Council has approved the plaque which should be in place within the next couple of months).

Personally, I was surprised and intrigued by the earliest item, a minute book of 1742 detailing the appointment of Isobel Strachan to a post at Aberdeen Infirmary:

An album of photographs of nurses and their patients at Aberdeen Children’s Hospital gave a vivid impression of late C19th care:

My favourite item, however, was the register of admissions to Cornhill Lunatic Asylum:

Causes of insanity included many cases of “disappointment in love” and several “disappointment in Marriage.”  It was pleasing to note that those disappointed in love tended to recover.  Family quarrels, religious doubts, bereavements and excessive tea drinking  all helped fill the female wards.  I was intrigued to see entries for at least two schoolmistresses,  Catherine McAllan, aged 57, and Catherine Warden, aged 46.  I intend to follow these up.   One gendered difference in causes of insanity, we were told, was that “masturbation” was given as a cause only in male admissions!

Alison T McCall

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