Today I took part in Aberdeen’s Walk for Women, which started out on the steps of Aberdeen Art Gallery. The organisers turned up in fabulous Edwardian wear, while others sported the suffragette colours of green, white, and purple. I wore my No More Page 3 t-shirt. There were also some “Votes for Women” sashes distributed.
Ready to get going, with our monochrome shoes.
The route was designed around some of the plaques and dedications to notable women with ties to Aberdeen, and we started inside the Art Gallery (much to the bemusement of staff) at the plaque of Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen, who was a philanthropist and campaigner for women’s rights, and founded the Victorian Order of Nurses, amongst other things.
Marching on through the very windy wind, next up was Marion Douglas, Lady Drum, who founded a hospital for women.
Then we moved on to the Castlegate, to admire the golden postbox in honour of Katherine Grainger.
Round the corner on King Street, at the side of the Aberdeen Arts Centre, was the plaque to Catherine Hollingworth, child drama pioneer and speech therapist.
Catching up with everyone at William Wallace, and discussing how little we know about ‘Mrs. Wallace’, and ‘Mrs. The Bruce’…
And here we are at Chapel Street, at the plaque for Elizabeth Latto Ewen, the first female GP in Aberdeen. Apparently she was allowed to treat only ‘women of ill-repute’.
Along the way, while speaking with my friend Lex, the distinction between suffragette and suffragist also came up. I learnt that the women’s suffrage movement was made up of two main groups and ideologies: the suffragists, like Fawcett, who believed in non-violent methods like petitioning and marches, and the suffragettes, like Pankhurst, who believed more millitant methods such as arson and damaging property were necessary. I guess we’ll never really know whether one of these methods on their own would have achieved women’s suffrage sooner or not at all.
On we went, up to Albyn place, to St. Margaret’s School for Girls, the oldest girls’ school in Scotland. Also nearby was Harlaw Academy, whose former alumni includes Annie Lennox. There we saw a plaque for Rachel Annand Taylor, who taught here, and was also one of the first female students at Aberdeen University.
We headed back down Union Street and onto Dee Street, to the plaque for Mary Garden, opera singer.
And further down Dee Street we saw the plaque for Meredith Brown, who wrote about the lives of East End factory girls in the late 19th Century, and founded the Shaftesbury Institute as a safe place for girls.
Despite threatening, the rain had held off, and by now the sun was coming back out again!
Finally, back onto Union Street and down to Union Terrace Gardens, to the memorial for Mary Slessor, missionary and saviour of twins (some of the communities she worked with at that time believed twins to be evil). She’s also one of two women on Scottish banknotes.
What do we want? Gender equality! When do we want it? A hundred years ago! That was our chant for the afternoon, along with tambourines and maracas keeping up the party feel. Town was pretty busy, with the weather being decent, and also the start of the football season with a home game. Most folks gave us smiles, some stopped to speak to us, and one lady we met on the street decided to join us. We even got a few cheers as well.
A splendid walk to celebrate women, followed by a flop at the pub.