Women form 52% of the world population.
Although in the industrial countries women
theoretically have achieved “equal rights”, the
majority of the world is still male-dominated and women are
oppressed, maltreated, exploited, raped and even killed.
I am conscious of the fact that every woman
right had to be won bitterly and we nowadays benefit from
the courage, strength and willpower of our predecessors.
For me, these women are heroes and although
most hero epic poems tell of men, most monuments are dedicated
to war and “great warriors", these women have changed
the world and also formed our society of today.
One of the rights women have won around the turn of the century
is the women’s right to vote. The movement in Scotland
was led by
and was mainly active in between 1860 and
1918. Women were excluded from voting at all, they could not
obtain higher education (and certainly not a medical one),
and the property laws were iniquitous for married women.
Scotland’s first Suffrage groups appeared
in the late 1860s. Suffragists demanded justice
and equality for all women, using legal tactics to try to
win support by discussion and debate. They sent petitions
to Parliament, wrote letters to MPs, distributed leaflets
and organised meetings.
After 30 years of peaceful campaigning and
achieving only minor change, more militant campaigners began
to emerge, mainly from England.
move for women to have the vote had really started in 1897
Fawcett (1847 – 1929) founded the "National
Union of Women's Suffrage". She believed in
peaceful protest, patience and logical arguments. However,
Fawcett's progress was very slow.
left many women angry and in 1903 the "Women's
Social and Political Union" was founded by Emmeline
Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel
They wanted women to have the right to vote
and they were not prepared to wait, they would even break
the law and go to prison for their beliefs.
Scottish Suffragettes poured acid into pillar
boxes, chained themselves to railings, smashed windows and
slashed portraits of the King. They also set fire to important
buildings such as Leuchars Railway Station, Ayr Racecourse
and the Whitekirk in East Lothian.
and Mouse" Act 1913:
When they had been put to prison, Suffragettes often went
on hunger strike and the authorities' attempts to force-feed
them provoked a major public outcry. The government was very
concerned that they might die in prison thus giving the movement
martyrs. Eventually in 1913, the Government
passed the Prisoners' Temporary Discharge Act,
or "Cat and Mouse" Act. This allowed
imprisoned women to be released, regain their strength and
then be re-arrested to complete their sentence. Often before
re-arrest these women escaped police surveillance and joined
in further protests. Research does indicate that the act did
not do a great deal to deter the activities of the Suffragettes.
However, the start of the war in August 1914, and the ending
of all Suffragette activities for the duration of the war,
means that the potentially full impact of the 'Cat and Mouse
Act' will never be known.
The nickname of the act came about because of a cat’s
habit of playing with its prey (a mouse) before finishing
In 1908 the Scottish
headquaters of the “Women’s Social and
Political Union” opened in Glasgow.
Elsie Inglis, one of the first women to graduate
from a Scottish university, launched her Scottish Women’s
Suffrage Movement in Edinburgh.
When World War I began, Dr. Inglis offered
her medical services to the War Office at the outbreak of
hostilities. She was politely told by the faceless civil service
bureaucrat who interviewed her: “My good lady, go home
and sit still”. Fortunately she didn’t so, and
instead set up a chain of all-women hospitals and ambulance
stations along the western front. Herr stubbornness and that
of thousands like her, won in the end.
In 1918, women in Britain finally
won their right to vote and stand in general elections, if
they were over 30 and met minimum property qualifications.
(click here for the "Representation
of the People Act 1918")
They didn’t waste any time exercising
that power. Eunice Murray has the distinction of being the
first woman to stand in a general election, as an Independent
for Glasgow Bridgeton in 1918; she came third.
On 6th of May 1999, 48 (out of 129, which
means 37 per cent) women were returned as Members of the Scottish