Edinburgh has a poor reputation when it comes to commemorating its female historical figures - the city famously has more statues of dogs than of historical women...
But there are memorials to female figures to be found in the city, and here - in the fifth instalment of my Grave Concerns blog thread - I'm highlighting five graves in the city's graveyards which are linked to women.
(You can read Grave Concerns parts I, II, III and IV here!)
AGNES MACLEHOSE, AKA CLARINDA
Agnes Craig had been born in Glasgow in 1759, and was married by the age of 18 to a young lawyer named James Maclehose.
She would later leave (but not divorce) her husband, citing allegations of abuse and cruelty, and in Edinburgh was introduced to a young poet named Robert Burns - they would develop a sustained relationship through letters to each other written under pen names. Because both of them were married to other people, they adopted secret identities in case their correspondence should ever be discovered - he was Sylvander, and she became Clarinda.
Agnes's husband had emigrated to Jamaica, and in 1791 she decided to attempt a reconciliation with him by sailing to join him in the West Indies. Burns travelled to Edinburgh to see her one last time, staying at the White Hart Inn in the Grassmarket, where he wrote a poem commemorating the unconsummated love that they held for each other. It begins:
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, alas, forever!
Burns enclosed the poem - which would become one of his best-known - in a letter that Agnes carried with her to Jamaica. (Alas, on arrival, she discovered her husband had already settled down with a mistress, and although she returned to Edinburgh she never saw Burns in person again.)
After Agnes's death in 1841, the pseudonymous letters she exchanged with Burns were published to great public interest. She was buried in the Canongate Kirkyard on the Royal Mile, where a commemorative stone bearing a likeness of her profile marks her grave - under the single name CLARINDA.
A great pioneer of women's medicine was Elsie Inglis, who trained as a medic in Edinburgh's School of Medicine for Women established by Sophia Jex-Blake - she would later set up a maternity hospital in George Square to provide improved care for women during childbirth, and campaigned for women's suffrage alongside Millicent Fawcett and Chrystal Macmillan.
But the experiences which led to her being celebrated as a medical pioneer would come relatively late in life, after Inglis had turned 50, with the outbreak of the First World War.
Seeing the need for medical support in Europe, Inglis approached the Red Cross to seek funding to set up all-female staffed medical units to provide care for Allied forces. After being denied funding for establishing hospitals run entirely by women, a War Office official advised her: "my good lady, go home and sit still"...
Inglis was not going to sit still! She set up a fund using £100 of her own money, and with support from the suffragist groups she had previously been involved with, after a month she had already raised £1,000. Her medical teams would provide support to troops across Europe, and Inglis herself went with a group to Serbia.
When German forces invaded Serbia in 1915, Inglis was taken prisoner and repatriated to Scotland via Switzerland - on arrival home, she immediately began organising a team of medics to travel to Russia. She went with them when they dispatched in 1916, later fleeing Russian forces to Romania, where she and her team of just 7 medics tended to 11,000 wounded soldiers and sailors.
In 1917, Inglis herself was taken ill with what would turn out to be bowel cancer, and she undertook the dangerous journey home to Britain - she arrived into Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 25 November 1917, and died the next day.
Her body was brought to Edinburgh where it laid at rest in St Giles' Cathedral, and her funeral was attended by members of both the British and Serbian royal families before she was buried in the Dean Cemetery.
In the graveyard of St John's church on the corner of Lothian Road and Princes Street is one of only a handful of graves in Edinburgh of a person born a slave.
Malvina Wells had been born in Grenada, in the West Indies, in 1804. Her father was John Wells, a plantation manager, and her mother was a slave - her name isn't given in Malvina's birth record.
Many Scottish plantation owners (and slave owners) brought favoured slaves back to Scotland when they returned home, and thanks to the arguments of Henry Dundas in the 1770s, ownership of slaves was held to be incompatible with Scottish law - and so on arrival in Scotland slaves were immediately granted their freedom.
It's not known when Malvina travelled back to Scotland, but by 1851 she was working as a lady's maid to the Macrae family at 33 King Street in Edinburgh's New Town. Thanks to the British census records, taken every ten years, we know that in 1861 Wells was head of a household on Thistle Street, and in 1871 is a servant of the Gordon family on Randolph Crescent.
In 1881, at the age of 75, Wells is once again listed as working for the Macrae family, at Gloucester Place - she would die in 1887 of heart disease, and was buried beneath a pink granite gravestone paid for by the family with whom she had been connected for over thirty years.
In St Cuthbert's churchyard, the oldest continually site of Christian worship in Edinburgh, tucked away beneath a flowering tree and facing away from the nearest path, is a stone dedicated to Jessie MacDonald (1793 - 1872).
It's not clear whether Jessie is actually buried at the stone - it seems unlikely, if she died (as it seems she did) in a village in the Scottish Highlands.
Indeed, there's no specific connection to Edinburgh that I can find, except that her husband, Ninian Jeffrey, was held for a time in the jail at the Canongate Tolbooth on the Royal Mile for debt and trying to evade his creditors...
But the reason the monument is of some interest, perhaps, is that Jessie MacDonald was the granddaughter of famed Jacobite Flora MacDonald - she who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie after he fled the battlefield at Culloden, assisting his flight 'over the sea to Skye' - the Scottish island where Jessie was born to Flora MacDonald's fourth son, James.
Flora MacDonald has become one of the iconic female figures of Scottish history, even popping up in Outlander (as most Scottish historical figures do eventually!), so it's intriguing to find this small memorial to one of her descendants here in St Cuthbert's graveyard.
MRS MCEWAN AND MRS BRUCE
Two women together campaigned for what is one of the most dramatic graves in Edinburgh, to be found in the Old Calton Burial Ground - but neither of them are buried there...
Topped by a statue of Abraham Lincoln, this imposing monument is the only American Civil War memorial outside of North America, and is also a grave of Scottish soldiers who served in the Union Army fighting that conflict.
The monument came about after the widow of one of the servicemen, John McEwan, approached the US consul in Edinburgh to solicit his war pension to help support her and her children. The American ambassador at the time, Wallace Bruce, was sympathetic but only acted on the widow's request after the intervention of his own wife, who made the case for commemorating the loss of Scottish soldiers in a war so far from their native soil.
The combined efforts of Mrs McEwan and Mrs Bruce (I haven't been able to find their first names, though my colleague Jill at Scottish Highland Trails suggests they were Margaret McEwan and Annie Bruce) led to the unveiling of the monument in 1893, at the site of the burial of two of the soldiers named on its base. Without their involvement the contribution of Scots soldiers to the American Civil War may never have been as fully recognised as it is today.
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