Arts & culture

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Scotland is full of remarkable women, founding innovative organisations, doing life-changing work and inspiring a new generation of fearless pioneers. Here are just some of the women we admire – we’re sure this won’t be the last list

Lynne McNicoll, co-founder, It’s Good To Give

After recovering from breast cancer a year ago, Lynne McNicoll’s mission to fundraise for young cancer patients and their families has grow into more and more of a success story. Having raised money for Teenage Cancer Trust for a decade (managing to raise an incredible £50,000 in time for her 50th birthday), Lynne, 60, took inspiration from those she met while campaigning and formed her own charity in 2010, It’s Good 2 Give. She received a Local Hero award for Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year in 2015, as well as being given an OBE for services to children’s charities in Scotland in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Her latest project, The Ripple Retreat, a luxury respite home on the banks of Loch Venachar, is due to open in April.

Girls Against, campaign group

Girls Against – a group of five teenage feminists, Hannah, Anni, Anna, Ava and Bea – was formed as a campaign to raise awareness of and end sexual harassment at gigs and concerts. The group assembled after Hannah experienced sexual assault at a gig in Glasgow in 2015, prompting others to share their experiences of harassment, with the campaign giving victims a safe place to speak out and in turn help their recovery. The group supports all victims of harassment, regardless of gender, and aims to expand communication between fans, bands, promoters, venues and security companies to increase awareness of the issue and establish a no-tolerance approach to sexual harassment.

Talat Yaqoob, director, Equate Scotland

Established in 2006, Equate Scotland is Scotland’s expert in gender equality in science, engineering, technology and the built environment – supporting the recruitment, retention and progression of women in a sector that’s estimated to have only a 25% female workforce. Talat has headed up the Equate Scotland team since 2016, working with the Scottish Government and industry to promote a more inclusive STEM sector. Her previous admirable and passionate campaigning work includes fighting for 50% female representation in the Scottish Parliament – she co-founded the Women 5050 campaign – as well as working on issues that include education rights and tackling violence against women.

Kirsty Young, radio presenter

Intuitive, empathetic, gently interrogative and always able to get the best out of any interviewee, Kirsty Young makes every one of her Desert Island Discs programmes an engaging and fascinating listen. One of only four anchors in the prestigious programme’s history, she’s now been interviewing castaways for a decade, opening up the programme to a new audience. She was one of the first newsreaders on Channel 5’s 5 News programme, pioneering a more relaxed style of news presenting, and is the definition of ambition, drive and quiet determination.

Judy Murray, tennis coach

Mother to two champion tennis players but an unstoppable force in her own right, Judy Murray, 57, has worked tirelessly to promote tennis in Scotland and to continue the legacy of Andy and Jamie Murray’s success. She was influential in both their careers, playing skills-building games with them as children which she adapted into a programme called Tennis on the Road, which now gives young people in rural and deprived areas of Scotland the chance to play. As British Fed Cup Captain, she raised the profile of the event and of women’s tennis. She is currently fighting for more local tennis facilities nationwide.

Lulu, singer

We think our readers will agree that Lulu is a national treasure. Born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie in Lennoxtown, there’s very little that Lulu, 68, has not achieved. First coming to our attention in 1964 when she covered The Isley Brothers ‘ Shout’, after a few more chart-topping songs she decided to go solo and went on tour with the Hollies in Poland, becoming the first British female to sing behind the Iron Curtain. We’ve seen her act in the classic film To Sir, with Love and since then in everything from the West End to Eurovision, singing with Take That to penning tracks for Tina Turner. She looks fabulous, sounds fabulous and her effervescent zest for life is something to aspire to.

Janet Gillespie, fundraiser, Poppyscotland

After 64 years of fundraising for leading Armed Forces charity Poppyscotland, 94-year-old Janet Gillespie was awarded a British Empire Medal in this year’s New Year Honours. She spent more than 60 years as the Scottish Poppy Appeal area organiser for Crossmichael and Parton in Dumfries and Galloway, having begun selling poppies in 1952. In addition to ensuring her local area always had poppies and tins every November, Janet also opened her garden to the public each year to show off her prize snowdrops, raising even more for Poppyscotland in the process. She retired as area organiser in 2015. Janet, we salute you!

Nicola Gilchrist, advocate and director, Scottish Women’s Aid

Specialising in family and child law, Nicola has been on the board of Scottish Women’s Aid since 2013, using her legal expertise to guide the organisation and to help end domestic abuse in Scotland, while also improving services and protection for women, children and young people affected by domestic abuse. In her time at SWA, she has helped to introduce and develop a national domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline. Nicola is a proud and committed feminist and her amazing work to ensure help and support for those who need it is truly inspiring and more than deserving of a spot on this list.

Eilidh Doyle, athlete

After representing Britain at the 2016 Relay Games in Rio and bringing back the bronze for good measure, Eilidh Doyle has cemented her status as one of Scotland’s top female athletes. As well as also previously representing Britain in the London 2012 Olympics, she is the current Scottish record holder for the 400 metre hurdles. Eilidh, 29, earned her Physical Education degree from Edinburgh University and left her job as a full-time PE teacher to train her way to the top – a true example of accomplishment through hard work.

Nicola Benedetti, violinist

We all know Nicola Benedetti as a world-class classical artist, but many people may be unaware of her work with children. From the start of her career, Nicola, 29, has been a fierce campaigner for music and arts in education. She founded the ‘Benedetti Sessions’, a workshop programme for children and young people of all abilities. The sessions have welcomed groups of between 50 and 300 children, from string players to complete youth orchestras. Nicola dedicates a significant amount of each season to education visits and workshops and is an active supporter of anyone who advocates the importance of music in education.

To absent friends

Maggie Keswick Jencks, co-founder, Maggie’s Centres

After Maggie’s breast cancer returned in May 1993, she was given two to three months to live. She lived for another 18 months after taking part in an advanced chemotherapy trial, and during this time Maggie and her husband Charles worked closely with the medical team to develop a new approach to cancer care. Maggie and Charles believed patients should be more informed and and live more positively throughout their treatment participant through psychological support and the chance to meet other patients in a relaxed atmosphere – so the idea for Maggie’s Centres was born. The first Maggie’s Centre, as planned by Maggie and Charles, opened in Edinburgh in 1996, and there are now 20 centres across the UK, one in Barcelona, one in Hong Kong and seven new centres under development.

Margo MacDonald, politician

Hailing from Blantyre, politician Margo MacDonald was so well respected, her enthusiastic personality and passion for what she believed in crossed over party boundaries. Margo was also a director of Shelter Scotland and was a compelling broadcaster and presenter. Once SNP Deputy Leader, she was elected as an MSP for the Lothians in the first Scottish Parliament in 1999. She went on to stand as an independent, and was re-elected twice in 2007 and 2011. She continued to fight for her beliefs – including the right to assisted suicide – until she passed away in 2014, having suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for 20 years.

Elsie Inglis, doctor

Born in India to Scottish parents, Elsie Inglis was truly a pioneer for women’s medicine. After qualifying as a doctor in 1892, she was given a position at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital for Women in London, but found the care of female patients unacceptable. She decided the way forward was to have hospitals run for women by women. She returned to Edinburgh and opened a medical practice with another female doctor, and in 1904, she set up a small maternity hospital for Edinburgh’s poor, staffed entirely by women. This later became the Elise Inglis Memorial Hospital. Also a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, she died from cancer in 1917.