Hall of Heroes to include first ever female heroine at the Wallace Monument

13/02/2017
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The National Wallace Monument (NWM) is set to introduce the first Scottish heroine to feature in its Hall of Heroes collection

THE public will make the final decision on which heroine will become the first from a shortlist of accomplished Scottish women throughout history to feature in the Wallace Monument’s Hall of Heroes. 

Hundreds of remarkable characters were considered, with 14 exceptional candidates shortlisted by a special selection panel.  

The candidates span across the centuries with a wide variety of professions and achievements, including:

“For centuries women have been the unsung heroes – this project will acknowledge the role which women have played in Scottish society, and select a heroine who is worthy of recognition in such an important landmark.” Alison McCall, Women’s History Scotland

– Mairi Mhor nan Oran (1821-1898). Born in on Isle of Sky she was one of the most prolific poets of the 19th century and an avid campaigner for Crofters rights. Her poems and songs which highlighted the cruelty of  the ‘Highland Clearances’ are sung in the Gaidhealtachd to this day.

– Chrystal McMillan (1872-1937) who’s C.V. included; barrister, politician, suffragist and pacifist. She was the first woman to graduate from Edinburgh University with a science degree. As well being the first woman to plead a case before the House of Lords and a founding member of the Woman’s International League for Peace and Justice.

– Jane Haining (1897-1944) a Cristian Missionary stationed as the matron of a Jewish girls home in Hungary. Repeated calls for her to come home during World War II and the German invasion of Hungary were ignored, deciding instead to stay and protect the children. She managed to keep the girls safe for four years until she was arrested by the Gestapo and lated died in Auschwitz. She is the only Scot to be officially honoured at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as “righteous among nations”.

The panel, appointed by the independent charity responsible for managing and operating the Wallace Monument, Stirling District Tourism (SDT), includes representives from SDT and NWM as well as the Saltire Society, Glasgow Life and Women’s History Scotland.

The selection panel chose the shortlist based on critera including women who have: 

– Made a significant or to date unrecognised contribution in shaping Scotland’s history or society as a whole,

– Exhibited a degree of selflessness, philanthropy, social conscience or personal courage in making their contribution,

– Inspired change in their time and will inspire future generations for years to come.

Financing the project has been reliant on public support and contributions as SDT is a “local charity which receives no external funding”.

Chrystal McMillan (1872-1937)

Voters have until 31 March to make their decision on which heroine is “worthy of recognition in such an important landmark”. The project follows years of patrons’ complaints at the lack of female figures in the exhibit.

Chair of Stirling District Tourism Zillah Jamieson explained why the final 14 were chosen: “These historic female figures have been chosen because they have shaped Scotland’s history and surprised, delighted and inspired generation after generation with their determination, fortitude and spirit – the very values which William Wallace stood for.

“Some have exhibited selflessness or personal commitment to social improvement and others were leaders in their fields, achieving worldwide recognition but all are worthy of a place in The Hall of Heroes among legends such as King Robert the Bruce, Sir Walter Scott and John Knox.”

“There are many Scottish women throughout history who had to wield a metaphorical sword to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ of their day.” Dolina MacLennan

Abby Richards, marketing co-ordinator, for Stirling District Tourism spoke to CommonSpace about the venture: “The Scotland’s Heroine project is an important project for The National Wallace Monument, The Hall of Heroes recognises the achievements of famous Scotsmen and should also be a place where Scotland can celebrate the successes of its famous women – who can take their place alongside the country’s national hero.

Jane Haining (1897-1944)

“Over the years, visitors to The National Wallace Monument have repeatedly asked why no female figures from Scotland’s past are represented in the collection. Our response to date has been to reference the historic and somewhat outdated nature of the selection criteria applied at that point in society.

“Given the progress made toward ensuring equality across genders in all aspects of society today, the time has undoubtedly arrived for the Hall of Heroes to reflect the achievements and contributions made by women throughout Scottish history.”

After selecting the first heroine to feature in The Hall of Heroes, work will commence on installing a commemorative display which will recognise the chosen heroine. The project is planned to continue to allow further “heroes and heroines to be introduced over time”. 

Mairi Mhor nan Oran (1821-1898)

The display will include biographical information and the achievements of the choosen heroine as well as the story of the enormous contribution which women have made to the world.

Selction panelist Dolina MacLennan (executive board member at the Saltire Society) praised the decsion to include women in the exhibit, stating: “William Wallace’s sword takes pride of place along with a goodly number of busts of erstwhile famous Scottish men in The Hall of Heroes of the Wallace Monument in Stirling. However, there are many Scottish women throughout history who had to wield a metaphorical sword to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ of their day.

“I am delighted that soon one of these remarkable heroines will be joining this hallowed company of men, and live in hope that many more of them will follow.”

Another panel member, Alison McCall, convener of Women’s History Scotland, added “It is wonderful to see an initiative such as this being implemented. For centuries women have been the unsung heroes – this project will acknowledge the role which women have played in Scottish society, and select a heroine who is worthy of recognition in such an important landmark.”

Votes for the choice of heroine can be made via the National Wallace Monument website.

Pictures Courtsey of The National Wallace Monument

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