Women's history to come into full view at Scotland's newest museum

The lesser-known histories of a number of influential and fearless women – from Scotland’s first female MP to a pioneering photographer, a witch, an animal rights campaigner and a tea lady – are in the running to take centre stage in the country’s newest museum.

Their tales of adventure, bravery, innovation and decency will be told through an exhibition in the new Perth City Hall Museum when it opens in early 2024.

A list of 50 women from Perth and Kinross throughout time – which also includes heroes from the sports world such as curler Eve Muirhead and celebrated St Johnstone tea lady Agnes Moffat – has been drawn up with residents to decide whose story is deposited in the Raising The Roof exhibition space.

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Also contending for a place is Jessie Mann, born in Perth in 1805, who is regarded as Scotland’s first female photographer. She worked as an assistant to David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson at their Calton Hill studios, where she took several thousands of images including hundreds of Church of Scotland ministers who appeared in Hill’s epic painting of the Disruption of the Church of Scotland.

Jessie Mann, thought to be Scotland's first female photographer, is among 50 women in the running to have her story told in the Perth City Hall Museum, which is due to open in 2024. PIC: CC.

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Kate McNiven, executed as a witch at Monzie in 1615 after her laird accused her of supernatural activity, is another contender for the exhibition along with Katherine Stewart-Murray, the Duchess of Atholl, who became Scotland’s first female MP when elected in 1923.

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events said: “We are delighted to be supporting Raise the Roof as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022. From icons of literature to local tales, Scotland’s Year of Stories encourages locals and visitors to experience a diversity of voices, take part in events and explore the places, people and cultures connected to all forms of our stories, past and present."Raise the Roof will be at the heart of an engaging, celebratory nationwide events programme, and this project, including Vanessa Lawrence’s wire sculptures and a range of special events, will encourage people to discover untold stories of the women of Perth and Kinross.”

The story of Winifred Anna Cavendish-Bentinck of Murthly Castle, the first – and longest-serving - president of the Society for the Protection of Birds, could also appear in the museum.

Katharine Stewart-Murray, Duchess of Atholl, elected Scotland's first female MP in 1923. PIC: CC.

Who gets a space in the exhibition is down to a number of community groups who will choose a woman to celebrate. Over the next six months, each group will research their chosen subject and work with an artist or maker to tell her story, with 22 to make it into the exhibition space.

Each woman will be then be displayed on the hoardings at the Perth City Hall site and then depicted in a life size wire sculpture by artist Vanessa Lawrence, with the artworks to form a trail across Perth and Kinross.

Perth City Hall is supported by £10 million from the UK Government as part of the Tay Cities Deal - a £700 million regional investment programme jointly funded by the UK and Scottish governments and regional partners.

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Winifred Anna Cavendish-Bentinck, became the first, and longest-serving, president of the Society for the Protection of Birds, in 1891. PIC: Contributed.

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