A Gude Cause Maks a Strong Arm

Last Saturday (10/10/09) nearly 3000 women took to the streets of Edinburgh to commemorate and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1909 sufragette march.

WHS was proud and excited to be involved in the Gude Cause procession, marking the 100 year anniversary of the women’s suffrage procession in Edinburgh in 1909. On a bright, cold morning in October a number of us gathered around the specially commissioned WHS banner and marched with thousands of others through the capital. Photographs of the event can be seen on our website. The banner survives to be used at future events and Gude Cause has stimulated a number of spin off activities including an archive of photos, documents, etc. relating to the Gude Cause events which will be placed in the NLS and a publication of a 100 year timeline compiled by Lesley Orr and Esther Breitenbach.

“A gude cause maks a strong arm”: 1909 and 2009

1909

On 9 October 1909 the supporters of the women’s suffrage movement in Scotland staged a grand historical pageant through the streets of Edinburgh in an attempt to persuade its citizens that Scotswomen deserved enfranchisement.

Gude Cause March in Edinburgh, 1909

Gude Cause March 1909

Organised by the Women’s Social and Political Union and led by WSPU’s Scottish organiser, Flora Drummond – known as The General – the procession was divided into three sections: ‘what women have done and can do and will do’. It was headed by floats on which were famous and legendary Scotswomen, from Queen Margaret to ‘Midside Maggie’, followed by women from all over Scotland and from all occupations and social classes: graduates of the four universities, doctors and schoolteachers, nurses, fishwives and some prominent society figures, such as the wife of the Lord Provost, under banners saying ‘Votes for Women’ and ‘A Gude Cause Maks a Strong Arm’.

The march drew crowds ten deep along Princes Street and, although there was some heckling and flour throwing, it passed off peacefully. The Edinburgh Evening Dispatch wrote of “a solid phalanx of resolute and unflinching womanhood bent upon obtaining the vote”.

2009

On 10 October 2009 nearly 3000 women, under a hundreds of banners, paraded through Edinburgh (Princes Street was unfortunately out of bounds due to the notorious tram works) to commemorate and celebrate the Scottish suffrage campaigners and to persuade women that there are still issues, such as equal pay, child poverty and domestic violence, which need direct action and political involvement. As with its predecessor, the procession was divided into three sections: the past, the present and the future. A small group of members of Women’s History Scotland marched in the present section. Our handsome banner – the blown up dust jacket of the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women with Women’s History Scotland in place of the names of the editors – attracted a lot of attention as bystanders tried to identify the pictures of famous Scotswomen. The hope of those organising the march and those taking part was that learning about the struggle to obtain the vote will politicise a younger generation. The last banner read: ‘Use your vote – your ancestors are watching’.

[A gallery of images from the 2009 March is to follow]