Edinburgh National Society for Women's Suffrage

The Edinburgh National Society for Women's Suffrage was a leading group for women's rights in Scotland. It was one of the first three suffrage societies to be formed in Britain.[1]


The Edinburgh Ladies' Emancipation Society was at one time the focus for women's rights in Edinburgh.[2] This came to an end when Eliza Wigham, Jane Wigham and some of their friends set up the Edinburgh chapter of the National Society for Women's Suffrage on 6 November 1867.[3] Eliza and her friend Agnes McLaren became the secretaries,[4] Priscilla Bright McLaren was the president and Elizabeth Pease was the treasurer. One aim of the group was to influence a change in policy through supportive key politicians (MPs) John Stuart Mill, Jacob Bright and Duncan McLaren.[5]

In 1868, Mary Burton, a member of the Society, went to court, unsuccessfully, for the right to register to vote.[6]

By 1877, Eliza Wigham was still the secretary but she was sharing the role with Emily Rosaline Orme.[7]

Jessie C. Methven became honorary secretary in the mid 1890s.[8] She was succeeded in 1906 by Elsie Inglis.[9] Inglis also played a role in the early years of the Scottish Federation of Women's Suffrage Societies, acting as honorary secretary from 1906 to 1914.[10]

Sarah Mair, who was a leading activist for various causes including the Edinburgh Ladies' Educational Association, became president of the society in 1907.[11] Suffragette sisters and hunger strikers Arabella and Muriel Scott joined whilst students at the University of Edinburgh (before 1908).[12]

The organisation campaigned until (some) women got the right to vote in 1918, then renamed as the National Union of Women for Equal Citizenship went on to fight for women's issues.[13]


  1. ^ Leneman, Leah (1991). "The women's suffrage movement in the north of Scotland". Northern Scotland. 11 (First Serie (1): 29–43. doi:10.3366/nor.1991.0004. ISSN 0306-5278.
  2. ^ Edinburgh Ladies Emancipation Society (15 February 1866). "Annual Report of the Ladies' Emancipation Society". Wilson Anti-Slavery Collection: 2. JSTOR 60238978.
  3. ^ Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland, A Regional Survey, Routledge, 2006, p226
  4. ^ National Society of Women's Suffrage. Examiner; Jan 14 1871; 3285; British Periodicals pg 55
  5. ^ Smitley, Megan K. (2002). 'Woman's mission': the temperance and women's suffrage movements in Scotland, c.1870-1914. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. p. 35.
  6. ^ "Mary Burton 1819-1909". WEA Calendar 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  7. ^ Crawford, Elizabeth (2 September 2003). The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. Routledge. ISBN 9781135434014.
  8. ^ Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland, A Regional Survey, Routledge, 2006, p234
  9. ^ Leah Leneman, ‘Inglis, Elsie Maud (1864–1917)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 6 June 2015
  10. ^ Lovejoy, Esther Pohl (1957). Women Doctors of the World. New York: Macmillan. p. 288.
  11. ^ Innes, S (2004). "the Edinburgh Women Citizens' Association". Women's History Review. 13 (4): 621–647. doi:10.1080/09612020400200414. S2CID 205658350.
  12. ^ "Two million reasons why women should always use their vote". www.scotsman.com. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  13. ^ Leneman, Leah (2000). The Scottish suffragettes. Edinburgh: NMS Pub. p. 8. ISBN 1-901663-40-X. OCLC 46650355.