The city of Dundee has long been noted for its strong women and unsurprisingly played an important role in the suffrage movement. Find out about some of these remarkable women.
I’m Sue Black and welcome to the University of Dundee and our weekly look at the moments in history – both of the institution and the city – that have created the vibrant, dynamic place that we’re now part of. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University becoming independent, we examine the people, discoveries and decisions that have brought us to 2017 as Scotland’s University of the Year and one of the world’s Top 200 universities, delivering teaching and research that is helping to transform lives across society.
The city of Dundee has long been noted for its strong women and unsurprisingly played an important – although often neglected – role in the suffrage movement. Popular histories of the movement, and of the more militant suffragettes, tend to focus on activity in London, and are dominated by accounts of women from well-educated, middle-class backgrounds. Dundee, however, bucked the trend. Press reports from the period commented on the divergent nature of the participants, with working-class women providing active support.
Although Dundee women were encouraged by such notable figures as Emmeline Pankhurst, the strength of the movement came from within the city. After the split in 1907 between the Pankhurst-led Women’s Social and Political Union, Dundee formed a branch of the Women’s Freedom League. Initially, there was much support for the non-militant cause.
Agnes Husband, who took evening classes at University College, became President of the League. Another key figure was the Secretary, Lila Clunas, a schoolteacher who often entertained the Pankhursts in her Broughty Ferry home. Clunas became Dundee’s first suffrage prisoner to be held in London, after taking part in a delegation to Downing Street. Some of her writings are now in the University’s archive.
The MP Winston Churchill, who would hold the position of Governor of University College in addition to his more well-known roles, was targeted by the movement. When he came to stand as MP in Dundee in 1908 he was followed by a group of suffragettes and forced to hide in a shed to hold his meeting. Mary Maloney, a member of the Women’s Freedom League, rang a bell to drown him out whenever he tried to speak – although this only ended up damaging the cause as it distracted from the real issues.
As the movement increased in militancy, it was Dundee women who were the first in Scotland to be imprisoned, and to go on hunger strike for their beliefs. Ethel Moorhead was the first woman to be force fed north of the border. Her experiences were published in the press, leading to outcry over the cruel methods used:
“The tube filled up all my breathing space, I couldn’t breathe. The young man began pouring in the liquid food. I heard the noises I was making of choking and suffocation – uncouth noises human beings are not intended to make and which might be made by a vivisected dog. Still he kept on pouring.”
Moorhead subsequently became one of the best-known suffragettes in Scotland, instigating many disturbances and protests. Yet it took until 1918, and the end of the First World War, before votes were granted to women over 30. Ten years later, this was changed to include all women over 21. The women of Dundee can be justifiably proud of the role they played in changing history.
You can find out about the women who played a role in the suffrage movement through the University of Dundee archives – pop in from 9am to 5pm on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Professor Dame Sue Black
Professor Dame Sue Black was born in Inverness and educated at Inverness Royal Academy.
In 1982 she was awarded a Bachelor of Science with Honours in human anatomy from the University of Aberdeen. She later went on to earn her Doctor of Philosophy in human anatomy for her thesis on 'Identification from the human skeleton', also from the University of Aberdeen.
In 1987, she took up the post of lecturer in Anatomy at St Thomas' Hospital, London, starting her career in forensic anthropology, she served in this role until 1992.
Between 1992 and 2003 she undertook various contract work for the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the United Nations, involving the identification of victims and perpetrators of various conflicts.
In 1999, she became the lead forensic anthropologist to the British Forensic Team in Kosovo, deployed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on behalf of the United Nations.
In 2003 she undertook two tours to Iraq and in 2005 she participated in the United Kingdom's contribution to the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification operation, as part of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami international response.
In 2003, Black was appointed Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology at the University of Dundee. In 2008, she was appointed as head of the newly created Centre for Anatomy & Human Identification at the University of Dundee (CAHID).
Professor Black is also a co-director of the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science and is Patron of the Dundee Women in Science Festival.