Having heard from a ‘newby’ Steering Committee member last month, we now hear from Rose Pipes, long-term Steering Committee Member and keeper of the membership database.
1998 was the year when WHS, then called Scottish Women’s History Network, was resurrected after being dormant for a time, and I was one of the women who went along to the first meeting. Not being a history graduate, I would never have considered going but for the determined encouragement of the late Sue Innes, who in her typically generous way insisted that my local history publications and background in publishing were good enough grounds for getting involved. And how glad I am that Sue’s will prevailed. It’s been an immensely rewarding sixteen years, with plenty of good projects, lots of enthusiastic members and ideas, lasting friendships formed, and great conferences all over the country, from Shetland and Orkney to Dornoch and Aberdeen.
For me, the highlight of my time on the steering committee was acting as co-ordinating editor for WHS’s first major publishing project – The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women – for which Sue Innes, Siân Reynolds and Elizabeth Ewan were the joint academic editors. The project was a huge undertaking, but despite many obstacles along the way – not least Sue’s illness then death – we managed to bring it off and to remain close friends, thanks in no small part to much support from others in the Network.
Directly and indirectly, the Dictionary has spawned all sorts of unexpected spin-offs for me: the Women of Scotland memorials project; talks and films relating to women in the Dictionary; lectures on (Dictionary) women of Orkney at the annual Orkney International Science Festival; talks about the book to various groups; contributing biographies to art and other exhibitions, and so on. Most recently I have been helping Helen Kay (a WHS member) with her research into the life and work of Chrystal Macmillan, another Dictionary entrant, focusing on her legal career. This in turn has led to my writing an article on Macmillan’s work as a barrister, and next month Helen and I will join others at Durham University for the first of a serious of workshops around the UK to share ideas about women’s contribution to ‘legal landmarks’ – possibly resulting in a book of essays.
After that, who knows? If Helen MacDonald’s computing know-how works its magic, I may yet be released from my WHS duties as keeper of our membership database. Sixteen years is probably long enough. Any takers?