Overlooked women writers finally recognised with new Edinburgh plaques

Ali Bowden, Edinburgh City of Literature Trust presents Edinburgh's Lord Provost Robert Aldridge and Drumbrae Library with a set of books from the five overlooked women writers
Ali Bowden, Edinburgh City of Literature Trust presents Edinburgh's Lord Provost Robert Aldridge and Drumbrae Library with a set of books from the five overlooked women writers

FIVE Edinburgh-born women writers have been recognised with commemorative plaques and the donation of their books to 15 public libraries across the city.

Mary Brunton (a contemporary of Jane Austen), Christian Isobel Johnstone, Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane, Lady Margaret Sackville and Rebecca West have been celebrated by a dedicated campaign by the City of Literature Trust and Historic Environment Scotland.

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Robert Aldridge said: “Placing books by these extraordinary women writers in Edinburgh’s public libraries means that their words will be discovered by a whole new generation of the city’s residents.

“It is about time they were remembered, and recognised, as some of the leading writers of their day. It is important to note that while their life experiences cover a broad spectrum of history from the 18th to the 20th century, their writing is as relevant today as to their contemporary readers.”

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The writers nominated covered a range of styles, including investigative journalism, poetry, romance and biographies, as well as being active social reformers, champions of women’s rights and instrumental in shaping Edinburgh’s rich literary history.

Ruth Plowden, chair of the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, said: “While these five writers were renowned and applauded in their own lifetimes they have fallen out of public consciousness.

“The City of Literature Trust is proud to have worked with HES to install these plaques which go some way to acknowledging the extraordinary talent and influence of these literary women and to keep their stories and legacy alive.

“They helped shape Edinburgh’s history and their writing now takes its rightful place in our city’s libraries for a new generation to discover and enjoy.”

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) awarded plaques for three of the women through their Commemorative Plaque scheme, with the trust advocating for a further two to recognise all the nominated women.

A set of five books, one from each featured author, is being donated by the City of Literature Trust with the support of funding from HES, to 15 public libraries across Edinburgh.

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Each set contains a copy of Mary Brunton’s best-selling first novel Self-Control, Rebecca West’s debut novel The Return of the Soldier which documents the aftermath of the First World War from a woman’s perspective and Clan-Albin by Christian Isobel Johnstone, which engages with themes on British imperial expansion, England’s economic and political relationship with Scotland and the role of women in public life.

Selected Poems by Lady Margaret Sackville and Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane’s memoir of her mother Mary Elizabeth Haldane: A record of a hundred years complete the donation.

To accompany the donation of books, a new podcast series, Building Stories, has been released detailing the lives and work of the women, now available for free on the City of Literature Trust website.