Thousands of Votes for Scotland’s Heroines
21st Mar 2017
Since launching the “Scotland’s Heroines” initiative in January this year, to select the first woman to be recognised alongside all of the famous Scotsmen whose lives are celebrated in The Hall of Heroes at The National Wallace Monument, we have been genuinely overwhelmed by the response to the project – through the number of votes cast for all the candidates, and also the feedback that has been received. The project has clearly fired the imagination of those who have taken the time to read about the shortlisted women, and to cast their vote.
Over 4,000 votes have been received to date, and in so many instances people have taken the time to provide their own comments alongside their vote, and in telling us why they have made a particular choice they have re-emphasised the value of this long overdue project.
Just as it was a challenge for the project’s Selection Panel to whittle the initial list of hundreds of commendable women down to just fourteen names, it comes as no surprise that the public too have struggled at times to choose only one candidate during the voting process. The varied backgrounds and the individual qualities, attributes and achievements of each of the women make them all fantastic candidates, each worthy of recognition. As one voter commented – “it was virtually impossible to choose just one – they were all such amazing women.”
Of course, the challenge of selecting the names to be included in the shortlist for Scotland’s Heroines forced us to ask the question of “how a heroine can be defined”. Those women selected were all considered to have met important criteria: they have made a significant (or to date unrecognised) contribution in shaping Scotland’s history or society as a whole; exhibited a degree of selflessness, philanthropy, social conscience or personal courage in making their contribution; and they have inspired change in their time, and will inspire future generations for years to come. Similar attributes have been reflected in the comments received from voters, who have also highlighted such admirable qualities as their bravery, their talent, their caring nature, their strong will, their humble personalities, their generosity, and even their rebelliousness. The list could go on, but what is clear is that all of the women are seen as role models for what they achieved in their lives. Those accomplishments are still seen as relevant today, and their stories are seen as worth sharing.
Many voters cited their own personal experience of benefitting from the on-going legacy which the candidates have left – passionately expressed in the responses to Mary Slessor’s work to save twins in Nigeria: “I am alive as a twin now, because of Mary Slessor’s courage, bravery, humility, determination, love, care and commitment”. Others have highlighted what the work of the Maggies Centres has meant – either personally or to those who are close to them: “Maggie’s Centre has been so vital to our family, an inspirational lady who made so many people’s lives a little easier at a terrible time”. For some, it has been what these women stood for, what they sacrificed, or how they fought to become recognised in those fields of work which were previously male-dominated domains.
A question which was regularly expressed through the comments from voters was: “Why only one?”, and it is one we have, of course, been asking ourselves. Firstly, it is important to emphasise that while the first heroine will be added to The Hall of Heroes following the public vote, she certainly won’t be the last. As an independent charity, Stirling District Tourism is currently funding this project from its own resources, and the allocation of support towards initiatives such as Scotland’s Heroines has to be balanced with the organisation’s day-to-day responsibilities in managing and operating The National Wallace Monument as a visitor attraction. Further initiatives to recognise the immense contribution made by women in Scotland and across the world will, therefore, be taken forward in stages – which is why on-going support from public donations is so valuable to the charity. The physical constraints of The Hall of Heroes itself represent a further challenge, and it is proposed to reconfigure the exhibition space at The National Wallace Monument to allow for further heroines (and heroes) to be introduced over time.
Whilst the introduction of the first heroine to take her place in The Hall of Heroes will be a momentous date in the story of The National Wallace Monument, she will not be alone, as we will continue to tell the story of all of the other remarkable women on the shortlist.
– Zillah Jamieson
Chair, Stirling District Tourism