City statues suffer gender imbalance, say campaigners

Heidi Stewart, Kate Joester and Louise Hipwell want female equivalents of the Adam Smith statue
Heidi Stewart, Kate Joester and Louise Hipwell want female equivalents of the Adam Smith statue
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THERE are hundreds of them in Edinburgh – but only two are women.

The statue of Queen Victoria at the bottom of Leith Walk – erected in 1907 – and Anne Davidson’s anonymous African Woman and Child, unveiled in Festival Square in 1986, are the only public monuments in the city depicting the fairer sex.

Now, ahead of International Women’s Day, three feminist activists will come together to highlight the imbalance.

The friends have decided to lead a “mobile statue hit squad”, which will occupy sites across the city centre on March 11, to highlight the near-absence of women in Edinburgh’s squares and avenues.

They hope this year’s project will become an annual event.

Organiser Kate Joester, 35, from Granton, said: “For little girls, it’s like, ‘who’s that up there?’ and I’m always having to explain to my daughter that it’s some bloke.

“If you do see a female statue, it’s usually a statue of an anonymous, generic woman – not of an individual.

“The city does not tell little girls that you can be amazing. In effect, in recognising only men, the city is in some way suggesting you have to be a man to achieve something incredible and be celebrated.”

The event – also open to men – will see participants spend the day as “living statues”, dressing up as female personages from Edinburgh’s history.

The exact locations and the full list of figures to be depicted have still to be confirmed.

However, Doctor Elsie Inglis, a founder of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service Committee, and feminist barrister Chrystal Macmillan, Edinburgh University’s first female science graduate, will feature.

Ms Joester said: “Try walking through the city and how long is it before you come across the name of a woman who’s made it and is celebrated? Women were there doing significant things but they’re hidden and we need to start teasing them out.”

The project comes after the launch in November 2009 of a campaign to raise £150,000 to erect a statue of Elsie Inglis on the Royal Mile.

Campaign leader Ian McFarlane, of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Trust, said: “It’s time this issue was highlighted.”

City council culture and leisure leader, Councillor Deidre Brock, said: “I am certainly supportive of moves to recognise more significant women.”

Capital is a man’s world


A STATUE of John Wilson, Tory advocate, journalist and wit, stands close to the Mound, yet today he is virtually unknown.

Allan Ramsay, poet and member of the city’s art scene during the 17th century, is immortalised in Princes Street Gardens, but is also relatively unknown today.

While these relatively obscure figures are immortalised in stone, renowned Edinburgh women such as novelist Dame Muriel Spark, best known for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and philanthropist and suffragist Elsie Inglis are conspicuous by their absence from public squares.