Lib Link: Alex Cole-Hamilton: We still don’t value women in public life

If you wander round Edinburgh, you might think that men were the only people who ever did anything important.  Alex Cole-Hamilton has reflected of the lack of recognition for women in a post for the Women 50/50 campaign’s blog:

Well, because all told, statues of animals outnumber statues of women in the city by about 5:1. Walking down the Royal Mile, you couldn’t swing a dead Great Auk around your head for fear of hitting the stone effigy of a bloke who was big during the enlightenment – but there is no sign of the women who built so much of this city and its legacy.

A number of city MSPs and I from all parties have recently taken up the campaign to see Elsie Inglis commemorated on the Royal Mile. Elsie was a leading Suffragist in the late 19th century and was close friends with Millicent Fawcett. As a doctor, she established the Women’s Hospitals Movement which took mobile field hospitals to the bloodiest battlefields of World War 1. She was one of the only women ever to receive a state funeral and there are statues to her in Serbia and in France. Her only recognition in the capital is a small plaque in St Giles Cathedral.

The commemoration of important and trail-blazing women matters. It matters because if we don’t do it then the subliminal impact of public art is to cement the patriarchal view that only men can ever achieve greatness. I want to be able to walk up the Royal Mile with my daughter, Darcy, from the palace to castle, and ignite her ambition by pointing out famous female lawyers, politicians and authors and walk her through the steps she’ll need to take if she wants to be like them. The same is true for TV; modern political dramas, whether it be House of Cards or Designated survivor, idealise the rise of men and show the lead character using his male resources to grasp the reins of power. I don’t know about you, but I would like to see a TV adaptation of the life and career of Mary Esslemont, Barbara Castle or Shirley Williams.

I have a slight quibble with his conclusion, though:

Our daughters need to be constantly reminded of what they can become to enable them to follow in the footsteps of mighty women who have gone before them.

It is just as important that boys grow up in an equal world where power and recognition are shared and where nobody has a sense of entitlement that the world is shaped around them to the exclusion of others.

You can read Alex’s post here. 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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One Comment

  • I welcome Alex’s comments and wish him and his colleagues well in their attempt to organise a statue to Dr Inglis.

    About a year ago there was a wonderful exhibition in Holyrood of paintings by the East Lothian artist the late John Bellany R.A. Commemorating the work of Dr Inglis and her colleagues – it would be great if a permanent home could be found for these works in this the Centenary of the Armistice. How about it Alex?

    Coincidentally I am involved in erecting a blue plaque to Catherine Marshall in Cumbria in the autumn – a friend and colleague of Dr Elsie in the NUWSS and secretary of the No Conscription Fellowship.

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