For International Women's Day 2011, the University of Edinburgh and EUSA renamed 28 University buildings at George Square, King's Buildings, Moray House, Old College and New College to highlight the academic, political and cultural achievements of women on International Women’s Day,
Here are some of the remarkable women we honoured.
Hazel Cosgrove | 1946 -present | Judge
The right honourable Hazel Cosgrove (Lady Cosgrove, CBE) graduated from Glasgow University in 1966. She was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1968 and served as Standing Junior Counsel to the Department of Trade from 1977 to 1979.
Hazel Cosgrove holds the notable position of being the first women judge appointed in Scotland in 1996. She was appointed to this position after serving as Sheriff in Glasgow, from 1979-83, and Edinburgh, from 1983-96. In February 2003, Lady Cosgrove was appointed to the Inner House of the Court of Session and sworn of Her Majesty's Privy Council. She received a CBE in 2004 for services to the criminal justice system in Scotland, and has also been awarded honorary degrees from a number of institutions.
Muriel Gray | 1958 -present | Broadcaster, Journalist, Writer and Former Rector.
After graduating from Glasgow School of Art, and playing in a punk band, Gray became a radio presenter on Edinburgh station Forth One and BBC Radio One and Four.
Gray was Rector of the University of Edinburgh from 1988 to 1991. She is the only women to have held this position. Gray’s journalist career has included columns in Time Out magazine, the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Herald. She won Columnist of the Year in the 2001 Scottish press awards. Gray later became a best selling horror novelist with the publication of her first novel The Trickster in 1995, which was followed by two more, Furnace and The Ancient.
Gray is a patron and trustees of a number of Scottish charities including, Trees for Life (Scotland), the Craighalbert Centre, The Glasgow Science Centre, The Scottish Maritime Museum, The Lighthouse and The Children's Parliament.
Irene Khan | 1956 - Present | Human Rights Activist and Former Secretary of Amnesty International.
Dr Irene Khan is an internationally known expert and activist on human rights and gender issues.
From 2001 - 2009 she was Secretary General of Amnesty International; the world’s largest human rights organisation. During her tenure she expanded Amnesty’s mission and operations globally, focusing on the human rights of women and girls.
Dr Khan sits on the board of a number of international organisations, where she is a strong advocate of gender equality and the empowerment of women. She is the recipient of several awards and honorary degrees, including a doctorate from the University in 2009.
Jennie Lee | 1904-1988 | Labour MP
Janet (Jennie) Lee graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MA and an LLB. As an independent Labour party activist, she overcame a Tory majority in North Lanark to become the youngest women elected to the House of Commons. She held this post until 1931 and was later elected to represent the English constituency of Cannock.
Lee was made Minister of Arts in 1964 and helped to give the arts a public profile. She became a life peer in 1970.
Outside of political life, Lee was a key planner of the Open University which opened in 1971.
Ada Lovelace | 1815- 1852| Computer Programmer
Augusta Ada King, the Countess of Lovelace, was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron and considered to be the world’s first computer programmer.
Ada had been taught mathematics from a very young age by her mother. Her key academic achievement was to translate Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Charles Babbage’s general purpose machine, the Analytical Engine. She appended notes that included a method for calculating numbers with the machine, thereby producing the first computer programme. The calculations were never carried out, as the machine was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.
Marion Matheson | 1947-2011 | EUSA Staff
Marion worked for EUSA from October 1979 until her retirement in July 2009 in different roles, and laterally as a Senior Administration Adviser. During that time she worked with many Presidents, elected representatives and University staff, as well as having significant involvement in events particularly Freshers’ Week. She cared passionately about EUSA and was passionate about working alongside students which she found very rewarding and fulfilling.
Marion sadly passed away on 11 January 2011 following an incredibly brave battle with cancer. Travelling and holidays had always been very important to Marion and she had planned to have many more adventures after her retirement. Although she sadly never managed this, her friends will always fondly remember her zest for life.
Marion made many friends during her time at EUSA and the number of former students and colleagues who travelled from all over the world to pay their respects at her funeral is testament to the warmth and affection felt by all those who knew her.
Stella Rimington 1935-Present Former Director-General of M15
Stella Rimington was born in south London in 1935 and started studying English at the University of Edinburgh in 1954. Between 1967 and 1990 Rimington worked for all three branches of the Security Service; counter espionage, counter subversion, and counter terrorism.
In 1990, she was promoted to one of the Service's two Deputy Director-General positions.
Stella Rimington retired from MI5 in 1996. She was made a Dame Commander of Order of the Bath (DCB) in the New Year Honors’ List in 1996.
Dame Muriel Spark 1918- 2006 Novelist and Playwright
Muriel Spark was born in Edinburgh in 1918 and attended James Gillespie School for Girls, which undoubtedly inspired her representation of Edinburgh public school life in her famous work, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
After leaving school she took a course in précis writing at Heriot Watt College. She later taught English as a means to finance secretarial training.
Spark married in 1937 and had one son. The couple spent most of their married life in central Africa.
During the Second World War she worked in the political intelligence department of the British Foreign Office as a propagandist.
After the war Muriel Spark settled in London where she began her literary career. She became the General Secretary of the poetry society and edited the Poetry Review between 1947 and 1949. Spark won the Observer prize for short fiction which inspired her to focus on her fiction writing.
Her various novels and plays include The Comforters (1957), The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), The Public Image (1968) (which was shortlisted for Booker Prize), The Hothouse by the East River (1973), The Takeover (1976), Loitering with Intent (1981) (which was also shortlisted for Booker Prize), Symposium (1990) and The Finishing School (2004).
Muriel Spark received countless literacy tributes and honours. She received honorary degrees from Strathclyde University and the Universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, St Andrews, Oxford and Heriot Watt.
She was made a dame in 1993 and in 1997 received the David Cohen British Literature for Lifetime Achievement.
Cicely Isabel Fairfield (Dame Rebecca West)| 1892-1983 | Writer
Cicely Fairfield was born in London in 1892. After her father left the family she moved with her two sisters and their mother to her native Edinburgh. Fairfield attended George Watson’s Ladies College from 1904 to 1907. Although she was highly intelligent she was not encouraged to attend university.
Instead Fairfield followed her ambition of being an actress and briefly attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. She even took her pen-name from the heroine of Henrik Ibsen’s play Rosmersholm.
Following this, Fairfield developed strong left-wing opinions and started a career in journalism. Her first foray into this field was a controversial article supporting free-love for the feminism journal ‘freewomen’. She later became very active in the socialist movement and joined the Fabian Society.
Fairfield later joined the staff of the socialist weekly, The Clarion, on which we gained a reputation as a perceptive reviewer. Whilst working at The Clarion she wrote a scathing review of HG Well’s book ‘Marriage’. Wells responded by inviting Fairfield to his house. The couple became lovers and had a son.
After the affair broke down, Fairfield married Henry Andrews. Still keenly interested in politics she supported the popular front government in Spain during the Civil War. In was here she established a committee of like-minded women which aided homeless women and children in Spain.
However, after the Second World War Fairfield became more conservative and anti-communist in her views, writing for the Telegraph and the New Yorker.
As a writer, Rebecca West has been described as "indisputably the world's number one woman writer". She was a prolific journalist, critic, novelist and travel writer. Her many works include ‘The Return of the Soldier’ (1918), The Judge (1922), The Thinking Reed (1936), The Birds Fall Down (1966). Perhaps her most famous work is the non-fiction ‘Black Lamb and Grey Falcon’ (1941); a travelogue of Yugoslavia.
Fairfield was made CBE in 1949, and DBE in 1959, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to British letters.
You can view a complete list of those women who will be recognised on International Women's Day.
Buildings already named after women
Currently, all but two university buildings at Edinburgh are named after men.
The only buildings named after females are the Crystal Macmillan building in George Square and the Ann Walker building at Kings Buildings.
International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight this imbalance and remember some of the important and significant women connected with the University, the city of Edinburgh and with Scotland
The honoured women will either share the same academic or cultural area of expertise or will reflect the academic subject of the building, with preference for women with a connection to the University of Edinburgh and Scotland.
This project could not have been completed without the contributions of Esther Breitenbach and the Scottish Women’s History Network, in particular, the Innes, Ewan and Reynolds volume on ‘The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women’. This is an invaluable scholarly source of information on notable Scottish Women. A special thanks to the University for their financial support, in addition to the International Women’s Day Steering Committee.