Sue Innes Memorial Lecture 2018 – Prof Sarah Pedersen

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On Saturday 29th September 2018, we held our 11th annual Sue Innes Memorial Lecture at Abertay University, Dundee. This has been an exciting year for women’s history with so many events celebrating and commemorating one hundred years since women over 30 years of age gained the right to vote. We were delighted to have as our speaker Professor Sarah Pedersen whose recent book The Scottish Suffragettes and the Press (2017) offers insights into the role of media in fueling political activism. Her research highlights tensions between the London leaders of Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and the local leaders in Scotland contributing to a wider narrative of the suffragette movement as whole.

Suffragettes Who Have Never Been Kissed c.1910

Portrayals of suffragettes by the Anti-Suffrage Movement and the press and ugly spinsters was an image that the Pankhursts worked hard to counter. Sylvia Pankhurst remarked:

Many suffragists spend more money on clothes than they can comfortably afford, rather than run the risk of being considered outré, and doing harm to the cause.’ 

In her lecture, Professor Pedersen explored the symbiotic relationship between the press and the activities of the Scottish suffragettes. Despite the often mocking and anti-suffrage tone of newspapers, describing suffragettes as ‘screaming’, ‘screeching’, and ‘hysterical’, the reporting was often detailed and offered a platform for the pro-suffrage message to reach a wider audience. We learned about the popularity of local leaders such as Theresa Billington-Grieg and Helen Fraser, who often overshadowed London leaders during Scottish meetings reported by Scottish newspapers. It was this tension over their growing leadership in Scotland that Pedersen suggests led to the ousting of Billington-Greig, Fraser and also Caroline Phillips in Aberdeen by the central headquarters of the WSPU.

Theresa Billington-Greig

Following a disagreement over the Pankhursts increasingly heavy-handed approach both within the organisation and in their campaigning tactics Billington-Greig, with others, broke away from the WPSU in 1907. They founded the Women’s Freedom League (WFL), a militant non-violent organisation who chained themselves to railings and were instrumental in the 1911 Census Boycott.

       Women’s Freedom League Flag, 1908 from the LSE Library Collection https://www.flickr.com/photos/lselibrary/22772654202/

The press did not distinguish between the two organisations as highlighted by the story of Mary Maloney, who was a WFL member from London who followed Winston Churchill around during the Dundee by-election ringing a dinner bell every time he tried to speak. This caused such an outcry that the WSPU released a statement distancing themselves from the act.

Mary Maloney disrupts Churchill, 6 May 1908 (Dundee City Archives)

In the Scottish coverage of the campaign, it was the Scottish leaders that the press followed and reported on. But as suffrage action became increasingly violent, it was the deeds not words that would sell papers. It must be noted though, that violent acts of militancy in Scotland did not begin with any regularity until 1913 and even then, it was on a smaller-scale than England. The fates of Scottish suffragettes in London on hunger strike were reported daily, Scottish ‘Outrages’ and the trials made sensationalist stories. From the first act of militancy in 1905 when Christabel Pankhurst spat on a policeman, the press pushed the cause into the limelight and over the next decade the suffragettes fed the media with their hunger strikes, processions and bombings to keep votes for women in the public eye.

Pedersen’s analysis of the press highlights that there was Scottish independence from the London leadership of the militant movement with newspapers focusing on Scottish leaders, their words and activities. Through great examples of letters, images and even the odd poem, her lecture was both engaging and informative. Thank you to Professor Pederson for a lovely afternoon in sunny Dundee and for her wonderful insight into the Scottish Suffragettes and the role of the press.

 


If you, or your group, would like to find out more about Scottish Suffragettes in your location we have a great Suffrage Resource with some tips to help you get started. One of our members could also come along and run a workshop in your local area.


Yvonne McFadden (University of Glasgow)

Sue Innes Memorial Lecture 2017 – Listen now!

Lesley starting her lecture © E. McCrae

On Thursday night (19 October) we were very lucky to have Lesley Orr giving this year’s Sue Innes Memorial Lecture entitled –“To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in Scottish church and nation, c.1918 – 1945′. The lecture was co-hosted by the University of Edinburgh Centre for Theology and Public Issues at New College, University of Edinburgh.

Lesley was a close friend of Sue’s as were many in attendance. Sue’s work as an activist, journalist and historian continues to inspire historians of women and gender in Scotland and it was fascinating to see the influence that Sue’s work on citizenship and feminism has had on Lesley’s own research on women’s demands for equality in the ministry of the church in the interwar years and beyond.

Sue’s work on the Edinburgh Women’s Citizenship Association has been particularly influential on my own work on women’s organisations and interwar feminism in Scotland. However, I hadn’t really considered the role that the church had played in the lives of so many of the leaders of feminist organisations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, even thought I was obviously aware of the links between church women’s guilds and the women’s citizens associations. I had completely taken it for granted that women who were influential in the overtly feminist and largely middle-class women’s organisations in urban Scotland would be ‘respectable’ church-going women, but hadn’t thought of how their Christianity shaped their feminism. Lesley certainly has given me a lot to think about!

I particularly enjoyed learning more about Euphemia Somerville, Eunice Murray and especially Vera Kenmure (Findlay) who became the first official female minister in Partick in 1928 and later established her own church as well as being a figure head in Glasgow for women’s equality.

(There are entries on each in The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women if you’d like to find out more)

Don’t worry if you missed Lesley’s lecture you can catch up on Soundcloud by clicking on the following:

Valerie Wright  (University of Glasgow)

*** Sue Innes Memorial Lecture 2017 *** 19 October

 ‘“To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in Scottish church and nation, c.1918 – 1945′

Dr Lesley Orr

Thursday 19 October 2017, 5.30pm,

Martin Hall, New College, University of Edinburgh

Sue Innes was an inspiring and influential historian, journalist and feminist activist. She was among the founding members of Women’s History Scotland (then known as Scottish Women’s History Network), and was co-editor of the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, which is dedicated to her. Sue died in 2005, and the annual Sue Innes Memorial Lecture serves to celebrate her life, including her commitment to encouraging women’s and gender history – in and of Scotland.

This year’s speaker is Dr Lesley Orr (University of Edinburgh). In common with others who have been invited to give the lecture, she knew Sue personally. Her lecture, entitled “To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in Scottish church and nation, c.1918 – 1945′ takes a central theme of Sue’s own doctoral thesis – the meaning of citizenship to newly enfranchised women in Scotland – as its starting point.

This year’s Sue Innes Memorial Lecture is co-hosted by the University of Edinburgh Centre for Theology and Public Issues. It will be followed by a drinks reception in the Rainy Hall, New College.

All welcome – attendance is free, but registration is required.

Register via eventbrite 

 

2012 Annual Conference: Women and Wellbeing

WOMEN’S HISTORY SCOTLAND

2012 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Women's League of Health and Beauty pin, Glasgow Women's Library

Friday 12 and Saturday 13 October 2012
UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH

‘WOMEN AND WELLBEING’
Historical Perspectives

This year’s annual conference will explore the historical connections between women and ‘wellbeing’.

Keynote speaker and Sue Innes Memorial Lecturer: Viviene Cree, Professor of Social Work Studies, University of Edinburgh

The conference will explore women’s roles as carers and practitioners but also as patients or subjects of intervention. Has women’s historical association with caring and nurturing roles served to restrict or empower them? To what extent has women’s ‘hidden’ labour advanced the ‘wellbeing’ of past societies? In what ways have the gendered dynamics of health and wellbeing shifted across time? How might we analyse the relationship between carers/practitioners and their patients/clients? The conference will also examine the contributions that women’s and gender history can make to current debates concerning social policy, health and welfare; we particularly welcome papers in this area.

For further information contact Louise Jackson (louise.jackson@ed.ac.uk)

Full programme and booking details are available to download below.

Download: WHS 2012 Conference Programme

Download: WHS 2012 Conference – Registration Form