Let’s use International Women’s Day (IWD) to come together and make Scotland a place where everyone can thrive!
In 1908, 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and the right to vote. This was the start of IWD, which is now celebrated all over the world on March 8th.
This day is an opportunity to celebrate the women of Scotland who have made valuable contributions to our country. It is also a day to reflect on the progress that has been made to towards gender equality. The day is also a call for gender parity, and for the rights of all women to be considered in all aspects of life. It places importance on legislation, policies, and action to ensure that progress towards gender equality is realised.
Who are some of the most inspiring women of Scotland?
Although Scotland has a long and proud history, it is often overlooked in terms of its contribution to the world. This is in no small part due to the many inspiring women who have made invaluable contributions to our country.
Here are some of the women who were leaders in their respective fields:
Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780-1872)
Mary Somerville was a Scottish mathematician, astronomer, and scientific writer. She made significant contributions to the fields of mathematics and astronomy, including her work on the mathematical theory of tides and her translation of Pierre-Simon Laplace’s Celestial Mechanics. In 1835, she became the first woman to be elected to the Royal Astronomical Society.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)
Elizabeth Blackwell was a Scottish-born physician who was the first woman to receive a medical degree from an American medical school. She founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children and was a pioneer in the field of public health. Blackwell also helped to establish the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary, which provided medical education to women.
Isabella Elder (1828-1905)
Isabella Elder was a Scottish shipbuilder and philanthropist. She was a co-owner of the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, which she inherited after her husband’s death. Elder oversaw the company’s expansion and was responsible for the construction of several innovative ships, including the first steel-hulled steamship built in Scotland. She was also a major philanthropist, funding many charitable causes in Glasgow.
Mary Slessor (1848-1915)
Mary Slessor was a Scottish Presbyterian missionary who worked in Nigeria. She is known for her work in promoting women’s rights and opposing the practice of twin infanticide. Slessor learned the Efik language and became a respected member of the community, using her influence to promote education and healthcare.
Elsie Inglis (1864-1917)
Elsie Inglis was a Scottish doctor and suffragette who established the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during World War I. The hospitals provided medical aid to soldiers in France, Serbia, and Russia. Inglis also fought for women’s rights in Scotland, including the right to vote, and was a prominent member of the Women’s Social and Political Union.
Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933)
Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh was a Scottish artist and designer who worked in the Arts and Crafts movement. She is known for her work in the medium of stained glass, which she produced in collaboration with her husband, the architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Her designs were noted for their innovative use of colour and form and their incorporation of Art Nouveau elements.
Jessie M. King (1875-1949)
Jessie M. King was a Scottish artist and illustrator who worked in the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles. She is best known for her illustrations of children’s books, including Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. King was also a prolific designer, creating book covers, posters, and textiles. She was an influential figure in the Scottish arts scene and helped to establish the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists.
Mary Barbour (1875-1958)
Mary Barbour was a Scottish political activist who played a key role in the Glasgow rent strikes of 1915. The strikes were organised in response to rent increases during World War I and were successful in forcing landlords to reduce their rents. Barbour was also a prominent campaigner for women’s rights and social justice and was involved in the formation of the Women’s Peace Crusade in 1916. She later became one of the first female councillors in Glasgow and worked to improve housing conditions and social welfare. Barbour’s activism had a significant impact on Scottish politics, and she is remembered as a pioneer of the women’s movement. In 2018, a statue of Mary Barbour was unveiled in Govan, Glasgow, in recognition of her achievements.
Jane Haining (1897-1944)
Jane Haining was a Scottish missionary who worked in Hungary during World War II. She was the matron of a school for Jewish girls in Budapest and refused to leave her post when the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944. Haining was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where she died. She is remembered for her bravery and her commitment to helping others.
And here some of the women still making history:
Elsie Cook (1947-present)
From helping to reverse the women’s football ban to organising the first-ever official Scottish Women’s international game against England in 1972, Elsie, 76, is a pioneering figure within women’s football in the UK. She was the Scotland Manager for the women’s team and secretary for the Scottish Women’s Football Association. Elsie played a key role in institutionalising the Scottish Women’s FA through her various endeavours.
Nicola Sturgeon (1970-present)
Nicola Sturgeon is a Scottish politician and the current First Minister of Scotland, a position she has held since 2014. She was born in Irvine, Scotland, in 1970 and joined the Scottish National Party (SNP) at the age of 16. Sturgeon studied law at the University of Glasgow and worked as a solicitor before entering politics. She was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and has held various positions in the Scottish government, including Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, and Deputy First Minister. Sturgeon is a vocal advocate for Scottish independence and has been instrumental in shaping the SNP’s policies on education, healthcare, and social justice. She is the first woman to hold the position of First Minister in Scotland and is widely regarded as one of the most influential politicians in the United Kingdom.
These inspirational women have made significant contributions to Scotland and are an important reminder of the progress that can be made when women are given the opportunity to succeed.
What can we do to support women in Scotland?
We have made significant progress to support women in Scotland. Key priorities remain, to ensure we don’t return to the state of things in the early 1900s. Gender equality, and the supporting legislation and policies that will promote gender parity and provide equal opportunities for women remains paramount.
Efforts need to be gathered for ensuring that women have an equal voice in decision-making, whether it is in politics, business, or other areas of public life. There should be a constant support for women-owned businesses, and women should always have access to the same opportunities and resources as men. Initiatives that focus on empowering women, such as mentorship and training programmes are essential for creating a level playing field in which women can thrive and succeed.
This International Women’s Day, as we celebrate the amazing women of Scotland and their invaluable contributions to our country, let us also reflect not only on the progress that has been made, but also challenges which still remain. The inspiring women of Scotland are a constant reminder of the progress that is possible when women are given the opportunity to succeed. We must continue the fight for gender parity and support initiatives that empower women, all women around the globe.
We can all play a part in supporting women in Scotland and around the globe by speaking out against discrimination, helping to create a more inclusive society, and supporting local businesses and campaigns that champion women’s rights.
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