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Edinburgh World Heritage/Our Heritage/Edinburgh and the fight for women’s suffrage

Edinburgh and the fight for women’s suffrage


8th March 2018

Edinburgh World Heritage

Flora Drummond

This International Women’s Day, we remember the important role that Scottish women, and the city of Edinburgh played in securing partial female suffrage 100 years ago. In Scotland, the cause spread far and wide. The movement was more radical than in England because it was the home to a strong, well-organised left and Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party, was an important supporter. Edinburgh had one of the earliest suffrage societies in the 1870s.

Young Bessie Watson with her pipes

An important point for the movement in Scotland was a rally in Edinburgh in 1909. It was led by the formidable Flora ‘General’ Drummond, riding on horseback. A key figure in the movement, she had grown up in Arran. Bessie Watson ‘the youngest suffragette’ was also there, aged 9, playing her pipes.

Edinburgh also had a rather less positive claim to fame in the history of the suffragette movement. It was here that Ethel Moorhead became the first in Scotland to be force-fed, a practice which came later north of the border. To comfort her and the other prisoners, young Bessie Watson used to play her bagpipes in front of Calton Jail.

Calton Jail, the first in Scotland where suffragettes were force-fed

UNESCO considers gender equality as a fundamental human right, a building block for social justice, and an economic necessity. It is a critical factor for the achievement of all internationally agreed development goals as well as a goal in and of itself.

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