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Can you imagine a different Scotland, a Scotland where women are commemorated with statues and in street names and buildings?
Inspired by Rebecca Solnit who famously renamed all the New York subway stations after inspirational women, author Sara Sheridan could and suggested to HES – the public body which looks after Scotland’s historic environment – that she write a guidebook to that alternative nation.
The result is Where Are The Women, published today (May 9), which offers a fascinating insight into what might have been. The book is a revelation to read, highlighting as it does the many women whose remarkable achievements have gone largely unnoticed.
Here you will find the cave on Staffa named after Malvina rather than Fingal and the West Highland Way ends at Fort Mary. You can also read about the bravery of the women who resisted the Highland Clearances, Lady Anne Mackintosh, who held opposing political views to her husband and backed the Jacobites druing the 1745 uprising, or poet Mairi Mhor nan Oran, who was outspoken in her support of land rights for the Gaels. Sorley MacLean said no Gaelic poet had more joie de vie that Mairi Mhor.
For most of recorded history, women have been sidelined, if not silenced by men who named the built environment after themselves.
Sheridan, one of the Saltire Society’s most influential women, past and present, writes: ‘If women don’t see themselves represented in the world around them, the unspoken message is that our stories and achievements don’t matter’.
Now she invites us to look unflinchingly at Scotland’s heritage and bring those women who have been ignored to light. Where Are the Women? offers a pioneering look beyond the traditional male-dominated histories to reveal a new picture of Scotland’s history and heritage.