As we are coming up to the local elections, Kenneth Baxter from the University Archives looks at some early women politicians in Dundee.
The first woman to be elected to political office in Dundee was Miss Jessie Shaw who was elected to Dundee School Board in April 1891 but it wasn’t until 1901 that women were elected to the Parish Council. One of these was Mary Lily Walker, who was one of the first students to attend University College Dundee in 1883 and did much to support women and children in Dundee throughout her life. Mary was an independent and was joined on the Parish Council by the labour activist Agnes Husband. Agnes had also studied at UCD as an evening student in 1884 and would go on to be a well-known suffragette. She was elected to the School Board in 1906 and to the new Dundee Education Authority in 1919 and was awarded Freedom of the City in 1926.
Women were not able to stand for election to town councils in Scotland before 1907 and only one stood in Dundee, unsuccessfully, before the First World War. In 1924 a second, Annie Lamont, stood. Annie came to prominence recently because of a letter she had written which was preserved in the post office time capsule opened as part of the Great War Dundee project. Despite being a fine speaker and popular candidate she was not elected and it was not until 1935 that the first woman, Lily Miller, took a seat on the council. She was to remain a member until her retirement in 1954.
Although Dundee lagged behind cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen in electing women to the town council it did elect a female member of parliament ahead of these cities, returning the Unionist Florence Horsburgh in 1931.
She remains the only woman and only Conservative to represent a Dundee constituency at Westminster.