Which women should our city honour?

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There are more statues of animals than women in Edinburgh – and we want to change that.

Yesterday, we brought you the story of Dr Elsie Inglis, but there are plenty of others also deserving of such an honour in our historic city.


She created a blueprint that changed the way people dealing with cancer could manage their diagnosis in a relaxed and life-affirming environment.

In the face of her own terminal diagnosis, Maggie Keswick Jencks worked with her husband Charles and oncology nurse Laura Lee to develop a new more positive approach to cancer care.

In order to live more positively with cancer, Maggie and Charles believed you needed information that would allow you to be an informed participant in your medical treatment, stress-reducing strategies, psychological support and the opportunity to meet other people in similar circumstances in a relaxed domestic atmosphere.

Jean Redpath poses with her portrait. Picture: TSPL

Jean Redpath poses with her portrait. Picture: TSPL

Maggie was determined that people should not “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying” and the day before she died in June 1995, she sat in her garden, face to the sun and said: “Aren’t we lucky?”

In November 1996, the first Maggie’s Centre opened in Edinburgh. Maggie believed in the ability of buildings to uplift people and now there are 19 Maggie’s Centres throughout the UK, with two more planned, and one in Hong Kong.

Her vision and legacy has been recognised by the Department of Health as an example of best practice and since 2000 has also been commended by the NHS Cancer Plan, NICE and the Cancer Reform Strategy.

Last year the centres built in Maggie’s name received 200,000 visits and supported over 45,000 people newly affected by cancer.

Scientific writer Mary Somerville. Picture: Getty Images

Scientific writer Mary Somerville. Picture: Getty Images

• READ MORE: Campaign launched to salute Edinburgh’s greatest women


AS described by Sir David Brewster, inventor of the kaleidoscope, she was “certainly the most extraordinary woman in Europe – a mathematician of the very first rank with all the gentleness of a woman”.

Mary Fairfax Somerville, whose academic learning stretched from Greek to mathematics and botany, was also was nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society at the same time as German astronomer Caroline Herschel. She made a significant contribution to scientific writing – challenging preconceptions of learned women – and is credited with playing an instrumental role in the discovery of Neptune.

Birth control advocate and suffragette Dr Marie Stopes. Picture: Getty Images

Birth control advocate and suffragette Dr Marie Stopes. Picture: Getty Images

She had a bumpy to start to her education, disliking the teaching at a Musselburgh as well as contending with the prejudices against women in science at the time.

But it was her second husband, William Somerville, who recognised her capacity for science and uncanny ability to translate the complexities of her studies into understandable “common language”. Her published papers and books were widely distributed and influenced eminent scientists such as Edinburgh’s James Clerk Maxwell – whose statue sits near The Dome on George Street.

And although her story may remain little known in Edinburgh, her face will soon be widely recognisable.

A competition run by RBS to decide whose face should appear on the new polymer £10 notes, issued later this year, saw Mary take the top place.


Her breadth of knowledge and vast stretch earned her recognition and respect across women’s rights platforms, political classes and amongst peace activists.

Chrystal Macmillan MA BSc was a Liberal politician, barrister, feminist and pacifist, and the first female science graduate from the University of Edinburgh as well as that institution’s first female honours graduate in mathematics.

She was an activist for women’s right to vote, and for other women’s causes. She was the first woman to plead a case before the House of Lords, and was one of the founders of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

A determined and dogged ambassador for the causes she championed she was described by friend Elizabeth Abbott as “an able politician who did not beat her head against the stone wall; rather she chiselled until the stone wall began to crumble”.

During her time as a lawyer, she also founded the Open Door Council in an attempt to create equal opportunities for women across all social classes – a modern day human rights lawyer.

This included efforts to oppose the extension of “protective legislation” for women, regarding such legislation as “restrictive” and arguing that it effectively barred women from better-paid jobs such as mining.

In 1935, Ms MacMillan stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate in Edinburgh North

The University’s School of Social and Political Science in George Square was named in honour of Chrystal’s dedication to peace and women’s rights, and as a symbol of the School’s interests in gender, international politics and human rights.

• READ MORE: Why Dr Elsie Inglis deserves to be honoured in Edinburgh


It is in spite of and not because of her disability that Libby Clegg stands out as inspiration.

A powerful message to young woman, she demonstrates strength and determination refusing to let her condition define her.

She said that despite being registered blind – she was diagnosed aged nine with Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy disease giving her only slight peripheral vision in her left eye – she does not “face a lot of challenges”.

The 27-year-old sprinter has represented Scotland and Great Britain at international events.

She represented Great Britain at the 2008 summer paralympics winning a silver medal in the T12 100m race and gold in Rio at the 2016 Paralympic Games in 100m T11.

Her success in Rio was despite undergoing reclassification from T11 to T12, due to the further deterioration of her eyesight, requiring her to wear a blindfold while racing.

In October 2012, Clegg won “Para Athlete of the Year” at the Scottishathletics awards and was presented with her award by fellow GB Paralympian David Weir.She won the award again in October 2013.

Libby also came third in BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year 2006.

And if training was not enough she has also devoted her time to charity working with the “light up our lives” campaign for the Royal Blind Society and as an interactive representative of the Champions in School charity.

She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to both athletics and charity.


Her name lives on in the charity Marie Stopes International (MSI), established in the 1970s to continue the legacy of her family planning work, with clinics operating across 37 countries.

It is now the leading provider of sexual and reproductive health care in the UK, aiming to provide women with understanding and choice – a concept Ms Stopes began at the turn of the 20th century.

Born to a scientist and women’s rights activist, Marie spent her early years in the company of famous scholars of the day.

Following studies in botany and geology, Marie was introduced to her second husband, Humphrey Verdon Roe.

A philanthropist who was interested in birth control, Roe was supportive of Marie, particularly when she flouted extreme controversy to publish an explicit sex manual, Married Love.

He paid Fifield & Co to publish the book, which was an instant success, requiring five editions in the first year.

She went on to open the first birth-control clinic in Britain, giving women a choice over their own family planning.

Public support has swelled in favour of recognition for Ms Stopes in Edinburgh.

Kirsten Hey said: “I am very much in favour of the campaign for more statues of women in Edinburgh.

“I would vote for Marie Stopes, because I believe that the right and the ability to choose if and when to have children is vital for women to enable them to do all the other amazing things we do!”

As well as her considerable contribution to women’s rights, in her early work as a scientist studying coal, the classification scheme and terminology she devised for coal are still being used.


Edinburgh-based photographer Franki Raffles used the power of her lens to shine attention on the whispered world of domestic violence against women and children.

The freelance photographer had moved to the city in 1973 after studying at St Andrews University where she was active in the Women’s Liberation Movement.

She worked with the then-Edinburgh District Council on projects highlighting the work of the Women’s Committee and celebrating the achievements of women in the 13th Commonwealth Games.

But it was Franki’s explosive Zero Tolerance campaign that was thrust onto the Capital in 1992 that would be her greatest legacy. Giant “Z’s” hung from lampposts the length of Princes Street, they were emblazoned across buses and billboards across the city, stamped on beer mats – designed to show women’s resilience against domestic violence.

Her genius was the ability to take a complex subject matter and through her powerful photography communicate it in a way which was simple, effective and easily understood by a very broad range of people.

The campaign comprised of black and white photographs of “ordinary” scenes of peaceful domesticity flanked by brutal statistics on rape, murder and assault, challenged and inspired

a new way of thinking which, at the time, was considered little short of revolutionary.

It was a campaign, the images for which Franki created, that gained international recognition and was taken up by local authorities across the UK and abroad.

Franki died unexpectedly aged just 39 after complications from giving birth to twins.