Season of Mists

26 Aug

For probably the first time in my life, I have made plans for the future and stuck to them.  Being away from  home  for six weeks this summer forced me to get organised. Not only did I schedule my blogs I also realised a little forward planning was necessary in order to be ready in the autumn to play my part in an exciting new project Breaking the Mould – Researching and Celebrating 100 years of Women’s History and Experiences in Scotland. I’m going for the mellow fruitfulness and not the season of mists, so set myself a few targets before I left.

breaking the mould

The DRBs  have joined forces with members of the Lothian  Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) Women’s Forum,  as part of a Heritage Lottery  funded project.

In Edinburgh we will be creating an Edinburgh Women’s Heritage Trail  to be completed by the spring of 2015.

The Call to Action, as mentioned in a previous blog on 21st. May states:

“We want to involve all sections of the community in this project; senior school pupils, members of community groups, political activists, historians, mothers, employed people and job-seekers.

We need to draw on your knowledge of the history of women in your community and  your enthusiasm for uncovering unsung heroines to bring this project to life.”

Carol Stobie

Carol Stobie

Our tutor Carol Stobie has organised a number of workshops in the autumn at  St. Augustine’s on George IV Bridge, to bring together the research materials and interviews  on which keen “mould breakers”  have been working during the summer.  No pressure there then for myself  who will not have access or support from my DRB colleagues for a few weeks.

 I will be attempting to find the odd internet cafe in the Greek Islands, but hope the work I did before I left, the continuation of which I have left in the capable hands of Lorraine Doig, will in some way compensate for my long indulgent holiday in the sun.

Our chosen field of research is Edinburgh female writers and artists from 1914 – 2014. We have set up a spread sheet divided into decades and in the autumn hopefully the real work will begin.

Nothing is achieved in my opinion without a little help from one’s friends.  And where best to start than The Glasgow Women’s Library

gwl logo

Before I left Edinburgh, I attended a number of events at Edinburgh Central Library Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival  (9th – 21st. June).

The festival of talks, exhibitions and workshops is organised through a partnership between GWL, Edinburgh City Libraries and the Bonnie Fechters women’s history group.

For those of you who don’t know, a Bonnie Fechter is:  ” an intrepid fighter for a cause” ( The Concise Scots Dictionary Aberdeen University Press ). No coincidence that we are friends and all singing from the same hymn sheet.

When looking up Harpies and Quines, as a possible source of subject matter for our project, I found references to the feminist magazine founded by seven women living and working in Scotland, including the journalist and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch.  Harpies and Quines magazines were published in Scotland between  1992 and 1994.

Lesley Riddoch’s  book: Blossom – What Scotland Needs To Flourish  (Luath Press 2013), was stashed away in my ruck-sack as serious holiday reading, to help me make a more informed choice when voting on September 18th.

A David and Goliath  moment arose when the wee Scottish independent magazine hit the front page news when the glossy magazine  Harpers and Queen unsuccessfully sued  them because it objected to the name.


A couple of the talks of particular interest for the Breaking the Mould project were:  “No Wealth to Leave Us” A Matrilineal View of Scottish Women’s Writing,   by Scottish author and critic  Lesley McDowell  ( a full transcript of her talk can be found on her blog ).

Basically  the question Lesley was asking was: ” Where is the cannon of writing by women” ?

By looking at the past, the present and the future of Scottish women’s writing the talk gave a fascinating overview of what’s happened to our heritage.

Unsurprisingly, the Scottish tradition in literature has been both male generated and male fixated, particularly on Burns, Scott, Stephenson and MacDiarmid.

Speaking of our National Poet, I can never resist capturing an amusing or quirky take in my travels around the city. What caught my eye the other day was a very different looking Burns, staring down at me as I rushed  up the stairs in the  National Library of Scotland.


at the NLS 009

As part of The Hidden Library activities in June:  Knit the NLS  Kate Hendry,  resident artist at the library until August, gave the statue of Burns by John Tweed (1869-1933), a bit of a knit-over.  She also got her needles working on Thomas Carlyle (Boehm 1847).

Back to the subject in hand, Scottish women writers, and for my part, those with an Edinburgh connection in preparation for  our  Breaking the Mould:  Edinburgh Women’s Heritage Trail.

Thank you Lesley for giving me a starting point for my research, holiday reading.  The names of award winning writers in all genres, are now packed away in the filing cabinet of my brain, but also safely stored away electronically ready for action in the autumn . Some of  you wonderfully talented 20th century women must have lived, loved or worked in Edinburgh.

I would also have liked to pack Lesley’s :  ” Between the Sheets”  (Gerald Duckworth & C0.  2010)   but sadly no room so will have to wait until my return to find out if  she digs any dirt  about Edinburgh authors.

Between the Sheets

Also  120 Years  of Scottish Women Artists with Dr. Deborah Jackson, from Edinburgh College of Art, provided  food for thought in finding artists with a connection to Edinburgh for the Heritage Trail.  Her hugely enjoyable illustrated talk introduced students of Edinburgh College of Art including: Cecile Walton, Rachel McLean and Jessica Harrison. Jessica’s adaption of traditional female porcelain figures included this take on the meaning of  “coy”.

Coy by Jessica Harrison

Coy by Jessica Harrison

Finally, I met our colleagues at the National Library of Scotland from the Highlands WEA  ( 15th July 2014) when we were shown some of the suffrage archive material.

Our colleagues from the Highlands at the NLS

Our colleagues from the Highlands 

By sheer coincidence, it was the 150th birthday of  political activist Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the British Suffragette movement who campaigned to give women the right to vote.

 See  below Google’s birthday doodle  presented to the world on 15th July,  hooray.

Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragette leader, celebrated in Google doodle

One Response to “Season of Mists”

  1. Barbara Addison August 27, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    You say the DRBs have joined with another group. Am I right in thinking the DRBs will no longer meet Thursdays at ALP?


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