Help us honour war medic hero Elsie Inglis with Edinburgh statue

EDINBURGH is a city stuffed full of many wonderful statues, all standing tall as proud reminders of the Capital's truly remarkable history.

Friday, 17th November 2017, 11:38 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 2:30 am
Nurses work in the field hospital at Royaumont Abbey in France during the First World War. Picture: contributed
Nurses work in the field hospital at Royaumont Abbey in France during the First World War. Picture: contributed

But for too long there has been one major problem – where are all the women?

In fact, the Capital has more statues of animals than it does of women and enough is enough – it is time for change.

Earlier this year the Evening News shared the story of pioneering suffragist doctor Elsie Inglis, who was instrumental in setting up the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during the First World War.

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The hospitals were staffed solely by women to help the Allied war effort on the frontline, with Churchill lauding Dr 
Inglis as a heroine that “will shine in history”.

DONATE HERE: A statue for Elsie Inglis

Dr Inglis also set up a medical college for women in Edinburgh after becoming one of the nation’s first female doctors, so we feel it is only right that the city honours her with a statue of her own.

It is an issue about which the Evening News has long called for action, with our call for more female statues previously winning the backing of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Today we are delighted to announce this goal is one step closer as we launch a £50,000 fundraising drive to secure Dr Inglis the statue she rightly deserves. With the help of Edinburgh-based charity One City Trust – which fights inequality and exclusion on a daily basis – efforts to raise the cash can now get under way in earnest.

It comes just days before the Capital prepares to mark 100 years since Dr Inglis’s death with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Edinburgh Central Library.

She died on November 26, 1917, the day after returning to Britain from Russia where she had been working with a Scottish Women’s Hospital unit.

Lord Provost Frank Ross, president of OneCity Trust, said there was no better time to push ahead with securing a statue.

He said: “While Elsie Inglis is honoured widely in Serbia where she supported the war wounded, her story remains relatively unknown in Edinburgh.

“As we come together to mark 100 years since her death, this is our opportunity as Elsie’s home town to recognise the significant contribution she made as a medic, as a suffragist, and as an inspirational citizen of this city.

“I am calling on the businesses and citizens of Edinburgh to help us create a new tribute, one which recognises all that Elsie achieved and what she has stood for in the century since she died – a statue of Elsie which stands tall for at least another century to come.

“All of us want to see some distance made towards re-addressing the gender balance of the monuments which adorn our streets.

“To me and I’m sure to many others, a statue of Elsie Inglis – the war hero nurse who ‘refused to go home and sit still’ – would be a fitting start.

“For generations, the people of Edinburgh have in their grief or gratitude joined forces to create sweeping and beautiful memorials for those they admired.

“I hope this will become another one of those moments in history, after all, Elsie is the first lady of Edinburgh.”

In launching an appeal, the Evening News hopes our city can begin to counter one of its most shocking features – that its statues of animals outnumber those of women.

The Capital’s much-loved monument to Greyfriars Bobby was erected on George IV Bridge in 1873, followed by a statue commemorating the loyal canine vagabond “Bum”, a gift to the Capital which can be found at the Kings Stable Road entrance to Princes Street Gardens.

Meanwhile in 2015, a statue was unveiled immortalising beer-drinking Polish bear Wojtek, famous for “fighting” in World War Two and living out his days in Edinburgh Zoo.

The lack of heroines immortalised in stone or bronze is only made more apparent by the stark contrast when it comes to their male counterparts.

The list of men honoured in this way is a long one and, to name but a few, includes Rabbie Burns, Walter Scott, Robert, Louis Stephenson, Sherlock Holmes and David Hume.

Only the remarkable Helen Crummy – whose likeness stands outside Craigmillar library – and Queen Victoria are honoured in the same way.

Last year members of Women In Focus In Edinburgh (WIFIE) sought to highlight this imbalance, erecting five blown-up photos of notable Edinburgh women – one of them Dr Inglis.

WIFIE chair Caroline Armstrong said it was vital that women such as Dr Inglis were recognised, describing her as a figure everybody could take 
inspiration from.

She said: “We have been campaigning for recognition of many different historical women and the contribution that they made to our society that has gone largely ignored.

“We created a lifesize cut-out of her to put out in town to say this is the statue that we are missing here, this is somebody that we should be recognising – an unsung hero.

“She’s somebody who through her determination, work and selfless giving that we can all aspire to be like and we can still learn from her now even though she lived all those years ago.”

Ms Armstrong urged anyone who could to make a donation, saying it was “not fair and not right” that the majority of statues in the Capital were of men.

She added: “It’s not just creating a one-off statue and never looking at it again – this is something that future generations will look to that women can be strong, they can do 
incredible things.

“I’d encourage everybody to give even if it’s just a little bit because it’s saying that we want to celebrate these people.”