Jun 222019

Colin MacLaurin Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3DW

Mary Brück

This building at the University of Edinburgh Kings Buildings science campus honours the astronomer and historian of science Mary Brück (1925-2008), who graduated with a PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 1950. She returned in 1962 with the appointment of her husband, Hermann Brück, to the post of the Astronomer Royal for Scotland at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. She carried out research into stars, the gas and dust between stars and the Magellanic Clouds, while also doing historical research on women in astronomy and the history of astronomy in Scotland and her native Ireland. She published articles in several different journals and collaborated with her husband on a biography of the 19th-century Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Charles Piazzi Smyth. In 2018, the Mary Brück building was opened on Colin MacLaurin Road, itself dedicated to an 18th century champion of Astronomy in Edinburgh (whose memorial is visited as stop number 13 of this tour).

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Mary Brück Building and Brucks’ Cafe

Images credit: The University of Edinburgh / Royal Observatory Edinburgh

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Apr 032019

219 High Street today

219 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1PE

On this site, in 1904, Dr Elsie Inglis opened a hospital for women and children, known as The Hospice, and run only by women. Dr Inglis began her study of medicine in 1886, not long after women were first allowed to study the subject, at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, under the tutelage of Dr Sophia Jex-Blake. While at the School, Elsie helped found the Scottish Association for the Medical Education for Women. As well as being a pioneer in maternal care and a prominent suffragist, Elsie sat on the governing board of the Edinburgh Charities Organisations Council, under which name the Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor was then known, and organised a series of lectures for health visitors and also for mothers. When the First World War was declared in 1914, Elsie was almost 50 and unwell. She offered her services as a surgeon to the War Office only to be told ‘my good lady, go home and sit still.’ Dr Inglis refused to sit still, however, and instead came up with the idea for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, which went out to France as well as to Serbia to help the soldiers there. In 1916, Inglis become the first woman to receive the Order of the White Eagle, the highest honour Serbia could bestow.

219 High Street today

Plaques on wall at 219 High Street

The Hospice in the High Street – from Elsie Inglis by Eva Shaw McLaren, 1920

Portrait of Dr Elsie Inglis

Photo credits: Lucy Ridley, Ema Smekalova, The History Company, Wellcome Collection

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Apr 032019

5 Roxburgh Place today

5 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9SU

In 1871, Flora Stevenson opened a Sewing Room here for five months of the year during winter to allow women the same chance the men had at the Firelighter Factory to prove the genuineness of their applications for relief and their willingness to work. The women worked for a small wage (three halfpence per hour) which was paid in the form of provisions or clothing. Their work in the Sewing Room helped many to go on to find more permanent employment as cleaners, nurses, or in shops and factories. Initially, clothes made by the women were sold, but from 1893 onwards, the work of the Sewing Room was dedicated to making clothing for destitute children. The Sewing Room remained in operation until 1896 and in later years it provided work for unemployed tailors as well as women.

Painting of Flora Stevenson

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