The New Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women brings together the lives of the great, the good and the quietly remarkable in one fine collection of females who have made their mark on Scotland’s story over time.
From literature to heavy industry, from slave profiteers to philanthropists and Jacobites to poets, singers and code breakers, the women included in the book build up a fascinating picture of a history less told.
Co-editor Sian Reynolds said: “Despite the great flowering of books about Scottish history in the last 30 years or so, including some about women, it is still commonplace to turn to the index of a general history book and find very few named women, whereas there are many named men.
“That is not to mention books with titles like ‘Great Scots’ where you find a scatter of women, if any.”
The parents of Linda Norgrove have welcomed their daughter’s inclusion in the book.
Ms Norgrove, from Lewis, was kidnapped by insurgents in northern Afghanistan in 2008 and died during the attempted rescue by US Naval Special Warfare Development Group after being struck by a grenade intended for her captors.
Her mother, Lorna Norgrove, said: “Linda was essentially a very modest person and I suspect she would have been mortified at her inclusion within this biographical dictionary. That said, she would have been so pleased that her achievements in the developing world, supporting the under-privileged and the environment, have been recognised. And John and I are very touched by her inclusion in this in acknowledgement of her work.”
Other new additions include Muriel Spark, author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, who died in 2006; traditional singers Jean Redpath and Ray Fisher, politician Margo Macdonald, historian Jenny Wormald and founder of the Scottish Poetry Library Tessa Ransford.
Jacobite women such as Henrietta, Duchess of Gordon, who lost her lifelong pension after serving Prince Charles Edward Stuart breakfast on his return to Scotland in 1745, is included for the first time.
More humble supporters of the cause, such as Anne MacKay, an Inverness woman who was tortured for three days after her part in a Jacobite escape plot was exposed, are also mentioned.
From the world of sport, Scottish ski champion Hilda Jamieson, who skied her last run aged 102, is also included in the biographical dictionary.
Mrs Jamieson, who developed the Glenshee Ski Centre with her husband David, was described following her death as “probably ‘Scotland’s, the UK’s and possibly the world’s oldest active skier.”
Ms Reynolds said information had been harder to come by for oldest entries.
She said: “It is true that on occasion it has been quite hard to find the information the further back you go but we were very determined that all the women would be documented as much as possible.”
She added: “History is a discipline that has been very much written by men.”
The only firm criteria for being included in the book, last published 13 years ago, is that the women are no longer alive.
Ms Reynolds said the dictionary was about honouring lives.
She added: “As we saw it, it wasn’t going to be like a Who’s Who of the great and the good - though they will all be included, queens and all. We are not going to leave out Mary Queen of Scots and Flora Macdonald for instance. There are plenty of heroines and not a few villains. But it was not going to be all about careers, but especially about lives, as one of the original editors Sue Innes put it.”
New Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, published by Edinburgh University Press and edited by Sian Reynolds, Elizabeth Ewan, Rose Pipes and Jane Rendall, is available now.