Yesterday afternoon I was in Edinburgh City Chambers to meet school students working on a project to celebrate the lives and contributions of women in Scotland.
The pupils, from St Thomas of Aquin’s High School, have been working with the Edinburgh based DRB History Group to learn about notable women from Edinburgh’s past and to create statues to commemorate them.
The project complements the national Mapping Memorials to Women in Scotland project – a joint initiative between the Glasgow Women’s Library and Women’s History Scotland with support from Girlguiding Scotland.
Edinburgh is home to hundreds of monuments celebrating the lives and achievements of our most distinguished characters but women are conspicuous by their absence.
Across the city, Queen Victoria stands alone as the only woman specifically celebrated with a statue. In fact, Mapping Memorials has found that there are only 20 statues in the likeness of a specific woman across the whole country – five of which are of Queen Victoria.
However, if we dig a little deeper, we can find more modest memorials to the contributions women have made in fields as diverse as science, politics and the arts.
So far Mapping Memorials has identified over 380 memorials to notable women across the country including plaques, buildings, bridges and parks.
I am delighted that the DRB History Group has been working with pupils at St Thomas of Aquin’s to help them explore this issue and I have lodged a motion in Parliament welcoming the project.
After the school students had presented their work we also heard from Councillor Lesley Hinds who discussed the recent photograph which had been commissioned to record her tenure as Edinburgh’s second ever female Lord Provost. Our first female Lord Provost, Councillor Eleanor McLaughlin instead of following the tradition of having a portrait commissioned requested instead a stained glass window which you can see opposite.
We then discussed the way forward for the students’ project. I am keen to support their initiative to continue to raise awareness of how women have helped shape the country we live in and to inspire current and future generations of women to achieve their potential and will meet with them again to discuss the ideas prompted by the students’ presentations.