Overwhelming under-representation of women in Edinburgh’s statues has led to criticism, after it was found that there were more statues of animals than women in the capital. While there are four statues of animals dispersed throughout the city, there are only three of women, two of which depict Queen Victoria.
In response to this burgeoning issue, some Scottish organizations have suggested that this may be more to do with the fact that statues are used less in modern society to commemorate important historical figures.
For example, a spokesperson for Historic Environment Scotland told The Student: “we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the birth of Mary of Guise with an in-depth exhibition at Stirling Castle.” This is the more common form of immortalization in today’s society, as opposed to earlier centuries when Scottish society was ruled by a patriarchy and building statues was more common.
Elise Bell, second year History of Art student, told The Student: “public art has had less commission and funding in the modern age following the Victorian era”. Thus, the achievements of women cannot be displayed in the same way as men from this latter time period because their achievements have only been recognised in more recent years.
However the issue remains that this classical means of commemoration throughout Scotland’s cities is vastly male dominated. Out of the hundreds of statues throughout Scotland representing male politicians, military leaders, noblemen and cultural contributors such as Walter Scott and Robert Burns, only 20 ephagise women.
“I’m not very interested in statues, but I am bothered by what the absence of women represents”, said tourist Lindsay Harger to The Scotsman. Of the statues that do portray women in Scotland, many of them opt to represent anonymous, symbolic figures, as opposed to important women from Scotland’s history.
The third female statue in Edinburgh, after the two of Queen Victoria, is of an anonymous South African women, erected to represent the role Scotland played in the sanctioning of Apartheid. Similarly, at St Bernard’s Well on the Waters of Leith, there stands a statue of the Greek Goddess of health, Hygeia. While it is not commemorating a notable women of society, it is meant to portray women as the backbone Scotland.
It has been suggested that this lack of representation highlights Scotland’s traditional culture whereby men have dominated for longer than they have in other areas of the British Isles. For example, while Margaret Thatcher was the first women to become Prime Minister in England in 1979, Scotland has only recently gained its first female First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
However despite this, organizations have been working to equalise the representation of prominent women and men in Scottish society through different means. “We are committed to bringing women’s stories to life through events, tours and interpretations”, a spokesperson for Historic Environment Scotland to The Student.
Image credit: Maxwell Hamilton