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Balance for Better: Recognising notable Edinburgh women

The theme of International Women’s Day 2019 was Balance for Better.  In keeping with the spirit of better balance, the Board Room at Argyle House and three training rooms are being renamed after notable women with connections to Edinburgh. 

The Brenda Moon Boardroom was officially opened on International Women’s Day.  Brenda was one of the first woman to head up a research university library when she was Librarian here at the University of Edinburgh in the 1980s and 90s.  She played a major role in bringing the University into the digital age, as Edinburgh became one of the first major university libraries in the UK to tackle and deliver a computer-based service.  

The training rooms are being named after Marjorie Rackstraw, Irene J. Young, and Annie Hutton Numbers, three other remarkable women.  

Two events coincided with the launch of the Brenda Moon Boardroom.  Our Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, hosted a Wikipedia editathon for staff, students and friends of the University to create Wikipedia entries for notable women currently missing from the encyclopaedia site.  Only 17.77% of the English Wikipedia's biographies are about women.  

At the Main Library, LTW Equality and Diversity Images Intern Francesca Vavotici hosted a ‘Sketch-a-thon’ using images from the Centre for Research Collections’ Special Collections taking participants through a series of fun, fast-paced challenges portraying the work of pioneering women.

Women of Edinburgh – a Wikipedia editathon

As a result of the editathon a total of 19,000 words were added in creating nine new Wikipedia pages and improving another 52.  Staff, students and members of the public joined us to celebrate the lives and contributions of the notable Women of Edinburgh missing from the free and open online encyclopaedia.

The founder of WikiProject Women in Red (a project to address the systemic gender bias on Wikipedia through volunteer editors creating new biographies about notable women) took part on the event and two student editors were motivated to take part in the event remotely in Johannesburg.

If you’re interested in taking part in an editathon, why not head to Portobello for the next Portobello Library editathon organised by the Portobello Heritage Trust on 29 June. Open to all.

Wikipedia additions

Alison J. Tierney – British nursing theorist, professor and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Advanced Nursing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alison_J._Tierney

Sue Innes - British journalist, writer, historian, researcher, teacher, artist and feminist campaigner. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sue_Innes

Margaret Jarvie - Scottish swimmer and sociologist. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Jarvie

Margaret Burns or Matthews was a prostitute in Edinburgh in the late 1700's.

She gained notoriety for being at the centre of allegations of prostitution and 'disturbance of the peace' in a case brought to the courts in Edinburgh. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Burns

Christina Kay - Scottish school teacher and served as an inspiration for Miss Jean Brodie, the lead character of the famous 20th century novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christina_Kay

Jane (Jenny) Lyon (was a Scottish nanny to the Russian imperial family.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Lyon

Beti Jones was a Commander of the British Empire (CBE), a leading social worker, and she transformed the Scottish legal system pertaining to children. She was the first social work officer in Scotland and she established the first hearing system for children. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beti_Jones

Marjorie Rackstraw (1888–1981) was an educationalist and social worker. She was a lifelong friend of the prison reformer Margery FryLabour Councillor for Hampstead in London, and undertook significant relief work before, during and after the Second World War. Some time after graduating with an arts degree from the University of Birmingham, Marjorie worked as a lecturer in education at the University of Sheffield for several years. She was appointed warden of Masson Hall, University of Edinburgh, in 1924 and General Advisor to Women Students at the University in 1927. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marjorie_Rackstraw

Marion Grieve (born Marion Sellers Neilson) lived during the Great War and was a known Suffragette. She lived in Portobello, Edinburgh. Marion gave up being a suffragette when the war started to assist on the home front and was an active member and supporter of various charities within Portobello. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Grieve

Personal footnote

In raising awareness of our International Women’s Day activities, Rob O’Brien from IS Applications got in touch to share the story of his Great Aunt, Jane Haining, a teacher who lost her life at Auschwitz refusing to leave the children in her care.  Her incredible story is now the subject of a book.

Further reading