New exhibition to celebrate the historic role played by the women of Edinburgh in the Suffrage movement

Marking the centenary year of the first women receiving the right to vote in the UK, a new exhibition is to open at The Museum of Edinburgh charting the significant role the women of Edinburgh played.

Votes for women sash
A striped silk suffragette's sash in the colours of the Women's Social Political Union which belonged to Bessie Watson.

Entitled Their Work is Not Forgotten, the exhibition will look back at Edinburgh’s position as a major site in the seminal suffrage protests and demonstrations of 1909, as women took to the streets to fight for their right to vote through to the modern day movement, providing a timely reflection on ten decades of female enfranchisement, exploring what has been achieved and what is still to fight for 100 years on.

The exhibition will showcase Edinburgh’s rich history and contribution to the suffrage movement with a range of objects and images from the Museums & Galleries Collection going on show together for this first time. Highlights include; Bessie Watson’s scarf, images and replica banners from the Great Procession and Women's Demonstration in 1909 through Princes Street, and original sashes worn by the women of Edinburgh who participated in the demonstration. The exhibition will also feature items used in more recent protest activity in Edinburgh, exploring the development of social and political protest in Edinburgh through the years.

In the 2018 Year of Young People, the voices of young women in Edinburgh will be presented as part of the exhibition. A series of workshops will be held at The Museum of Edinburgh in the weeks preceding the exhibition in which women will be encouraged to voice their own thoughts on the role of women in social and political action today, in comparison to the actions of those women who campaigned to bring about the Representation of the People Act in 1909. Banner and flag making will also feature as part of the workshops which will take place on the 27 April and 8 June.

Their Work is Not Forgotten will open just days before Edinburgh once again hosts a major celebration as part of the suffrage movement. On Sunday 10 June, PROCESSIONS will see thousands of women and girls in Edinburgh, alongside Cardiff, London and Belfast take to the streets to commemorate the fight for suffrage and express what it means to be a woman today. PROCESSIONS forms part of the 14-18 NOW programme, in partnership with Artichoke, the UK’s largest producer of art in the public realm.

Councillor Amy McNeese-Mechan, Vice Culture and Communities Convener of the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Documenting the bravery and struggle of Scottish women who fought long and hard to win the right to vote, this powerful exhibition features an impressive display of protest banners, sashes and photographs from our city’s museum and gallery collection.

“Designed to commemorate the centenary of this historic moment on the road to full gender equality and celebrate the achievements of our female ancestors, the display also contemplates whether their fight is really over, 100 years on.

“I hope visitors of all ages feel empowered by the display, and perhaps even inspired to create their own banners and take to the streets on 10 June to join me and many other women as we channel the suffragette spirit in PROCESSIONS Edinburgh, to prove the work of the suffragettes will not be forgotten.”

Anna MacQuarrie, History Curator with Museums & Galleries Edinburgh, added: “Edinburgh’s place as a centre for political and social action is longstanding and our museum collections reflect this. We’re thrilled to be displaying important objects from the suffrage movement in Edinburgh as well as objects from recent political demonstrations held in the city. This exhibition offers an opportunity to reflect on the significant role that women have played at the heart of Edinburgh’s social and political action for over a hundred years. We hope it leaves visitors feeling informed, engaged and asking questions of their own.”

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