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The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women

Edited by Elizabeth L. Ewan, Sue Innes, Sian Reynolds, Rose Pipes

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This single-volume dictionary presents the lives of individual Scottish women from earliest times to the present. Drawing on new scholarship and a wide network of professional and amateur historians, it throws light on the experience of women from every class and category in Scotland and among the worldwide Scottish diaspora.

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Advisers to the project
Readers' Guide
The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women
Thematic Index.

About the Author

Elizabeth Ewan is a Professor of Scottish Studies and History at the University of Guelph.

Sue Innes was Research Fellow, Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, Glasgow Caledonian University. Following a career in journalism she returned to study, completing a PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 1998. She was author of Making it Work: Women, Change and Challenge in the 1990s (Chatto and Windus 1995) and Keeping Gender on the Agenda: Participative democracy and the Scottish Parliament (Engender April 1999).

Siân Reynolds is a former Professor at the University of Stirling.

Rose Pipes is a former commissioning editor with Oliver & Boyd publishers, Edinburgh, and now an independent researcher. Her own publications include The Colonies of Stockbridge, and Stockbridge in Living Memory.


A landmark in the development of Scottish historical studies.
- Christopher A Whatley, History Scotland
A splendid book, with fascinating lives on every page
- Ian Jack, The Guardian
Every facet of Scottish women's lives over the centuries is represented in what is both a fascinating record and valuable resource for further research.
- Jane Potter, Women's History Magazine
I found myself inflicted by the minor trauma one suffers in reading a good reference tome – head full of page numbers to flick to next, fingers in an implausible tort, keeping pages marked, making notes on a newspaper of entries to check out later.
- Roddy Lumsden,
The editors and the numerous contributing authors do an admirable job of reclaiming the sometimes 'lost' achievements or fame of Scottish women, as well as admirably summarising the careers of those who are better-known, through the more than 1,000 brief biographies featured in this work... Overall, the book presents several centuries of Scottish women as a lively, interesting, accomplished, endearing, and intelligent community, with much to offer both the student of history and the casual reader who delights in biography of any length. Libraries which fancy themselves up to date on Scottish history publications, and scholars of Scottish or gender history who gratefully collect handy and useful reference volumes should waste no time acquiring this one.
- Lisa Ford, Yale University, Scottish Historical Review
Must surely represent one of the most important landmarks in Scottish publishing history… The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women is a unique contribution to the study of Scottish women's biography and an outstanding reference work which yields discoveries on every page... no home in Scotland should be without a copy.
- Textualities
The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women is a tour de force of scholarship, commitment, canny decision-making, and unstinting effort on the part of the editors and their 280 contributors. It replaces well-worn generalities and nagging gaps with sprightly details and moving stories. What the editors call "the remembered Scottish past" has just become exponentially richer.
- Christine Bold, Times Literary Supplement
The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women is not just about Scottish women but about the wider, and under-told, story of Scotland itself.
- Iain Hutchison
In spite of the recent explosion of Scottish historiography, few would deny that there is still a huge amount to be done. With The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women there is a great leap forward. It pushes out the frontiers not because it is a book about women, but because it tells us so much about Scotland's people. By shining a light on the lives of 830 women, it illuminates social relationships… It is an extraordinarily moving book, not only because it gives us so wide-ranging a picture of female activity and achievement, but because these dictionary entries convey, remarkably, a real sense of flesh and blood, and of Scottish society, especially over the last 400 years… Each entry has been given sufficient space to tell a real story, and the 280 contributors have responded to that opportunity. The result is a collection of narratives that meld into something much more than a reference book. It is a magnificent memorial to the late Sue Innes, one of the book's editors and instigators.
- Jenni Calder, The Scotsman
'Characters as diverse as a spying nun, prostitute, mountaineer, plant pathologist, witch-hunter, battered wife, and a woman who locks up the object of her desires till he agrees to marry her, make this book a page turner...The BDSW is pioneering because many contributions draw on primary research rather than rely on previous dictionaries...It will become indispensable to scholars of Scottish, British and Imperial, as well as women’s history.'
- Elizabeth Ritchie, Family & Community History