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Nation asked: Who are the greatest Scotswomen?

Flora MacDonald who was immortalised in the Skye Boat Song. Picture: National Galleries of Scotland

Flora MacDonald who was immortalised in the Skye Boat Song. Picture: National Galleries of Scotland

  • by BRIAN FERGUSON
 

SCOTLAND’S most iconic and influential women are set to be celebrated as part of a new campaign charting the impact they have had on the nation over hundreds of years.

Historical figures, medical and scientific pioneers, women’s rights champions, sporting heroes and entertainers are set to be honoured in the project.

A permanent online archive of their achievements, honours and breakthroughs will be created for St Andrew’s Day and will be updated on a regular basis as new landmarks are passed.

Organisers say they hope to recognise Scots from every walk of life through the project, which will get under way with a two-week Twitter poll to generate nominations.

The Saltire Society, the 78-year-old culture and heritage organisation behind the initiative to recognise Scotland’s flagship female pioneers, said it wanted to recognise women who have made an “indelible mark”.

It is being launched today to coincide with the run-up to International Women’s Day on 8 March. Singers Annie Lennox and Lulu, violinist Nicola Benedetti, poet Liz Lochhead, percussionist Evelyn Glennie and actress Kelly MacDonald are among the modern-day Scots suggested by the society as possible contenders to be named “Outstanding Women of Scotland”.

Broadcasters Kirsty Wark, Sally Magnusson and Lorraine Kelly have also been put forward, along with Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour Party leader Johann Lamont, businesswoman Michelle Mone, tennis coach Judy Murray, former world champion track star Liz McColgan and Olympic curlers Eve Muirhead and Rhona Martin.

However, others include Marie Stopes, founder of Britain’s first birth-control clinic in 1921, 19th-century African missionary Mary Slessor and Elsie Inglis, the suffragette and founder of Scottish Women’s Hospitals during the First World War.

The Saltire Society said it wanted to recognise the contribution of women through every age of the country’s history, including those who played their part in the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Among the possible contenders to be honoured centuries after their deaths are Flora MacDonald, whose efforts to help Bonnie Prince Charlie evade capture were immortalised in the Skye Boat Song, Mary Queen of Scots, the controversial and tragic 16th-century monarch, and Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan, who crowned Robert the Bruce, but was later imprisoned in a wooden cage for years.

Deborah Kerr, the late Hollywood actress, who was born in Helensburgh, 94-year-old stage and screen star Molly Weir, from Glasgow, and Borders-born Catherine Spence – Australia’s first-ever political candidate – are also believed to be in the running.

The society already runs a string of high-profile awards schemes honouring literature, arts and crafts, Scottish song, architecture and civil engineering.

Outstanding Women of Scotland campaign spokeswoman Susan Garnsworthy, a member of the society’s ruling council, said: “As we look forward to celebrating International Women’s Day, I’m struck by how many Scottish women have made their own indelible mark on the cultural life of our country and far beyond.

“The Saltire Society exists to promote and celebrate Scottish culture and heritage. Over the centuries, the contribution of Scotland’s women to the cultural life of this country has been truly remarkable.

“In so many walks of life, it is as often the women of this country who have carried the torch for Scotland on a global stage as their male counterparts. International Women’s Day is the ideal opportunity to celebrate their achievements.”

The Saltire Society will be promoting its campaign on Twitter every day with little-known facts and trivia about possible contenders and is also encouraging people to post their own suggestions using the #saltirewomen hashtag.

The most popular choices sourced on Twitter will be revealed by the charity – which was set up in 1936 to “restore the country to its proper place as a creative force in Europe” – on International Women’s Day.

Nomination forms are also available to download from the society’s website and can be submitted until November. The qualifying criterion is to demonstrate the nominee has made an outstanding contribution to Scottish life, culture or society.

Ms Garnsworthy added: “I hope that our Twitter followers and the wider public will take full advantage of this opportunity to participate in this unique celebration of Scottish life, society and culture and to contribute to the creation of a new permanent archive of the ‘Outstanding Women of Scotland.’

“We are looking forward to receiving nominations from the general public of women they feel have made an outstanding contribution to the cultural life of this country – throughout its history right up to the present day.”

 

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