New exhibition to honour fight for vote


By Cara Sulieman

A NEW exhibition honouring the sacrifice of Scottish women who fought for their right to vote opens tomorrow.

To mark the 100th anniversary, the Museum of Edinburgh is collecting together stories of Scottish suffragettes.

They hope to demonstrate what part campaigners from across Scotland played in securing the vote.

And it will focus on a key moment of the campaign when, on October 10 1909, hundreds of men, women and children took to Princes Street in Edinburgh with banners and marched for the female vote.

Eye witness

The streets were lined with supporters who cheered them on – and a re-enactment of this historic event will be taking place this year.

Starting tomorrow, the exhibition runs until January 2010 and will use eye witness accounts to tell the story of the suffragette movement.

These include nine-year-old Bessie Watson who played the bagpipes during the pageant and Nannie Brown who wore out her shoes walking the 400 miles down to London to present a petition to the Prime Minister.

Others featured include Ethel Moorhead who was force fed in Calton Jail and looked after by Grace Cadell, a doctor and tax resister.

“Brave women”

One of the items in the exhibition will be the Women’s Social and Political Union scarf that was worn by Bessie when she piped her way down Princes Street.

Councillor Deidre Brock said that she was proud of the Scottish connection to such a worthwhile cause.

She said: “I feel enormous admiration for these brave women. At that time they were regarded as freakish and unnatural, and they withstood huge pressures from their family, from politics and from society in general.

“The strength of character it took to stand up to that amount of disappointment and hatred is astonishing.

“This fascinating and informative exhibition will bring to life their struggle for equality, reminding us all of the sacrifices made on our behalf.”

“Thrown out”

Helen Clark, the curator of the exhibition, said that people need to be more aware of Scotland’s contribution to the suffragette movement.

She said: “The struggle went on in Edinburgh for more than 60 years, right from the early beginnings in the 1860s up to 1928, when women got the vote on the same terms as men.

“Women couldn’t own property, they couldn’t hold public positions and they couldn’t get the vote. Men could stand up and heckle a public meeting, but if women did it, they were physically thrown out in the street.”

The Votes for Women exhibition takes place at the Museum of Edinburgh on Canongate from July 31 to January 9 2010.