Award-winning playwright Alan Bissett pays tribute to Scottish feminist


SCOTTISH feminist heroine Caroline Phillips is celebrated in a new musical created by award-winning writer Alan Bissett (see below).

A Monstrous Regiment of Women explores the life of the suffragette and journalist and receives its premiere this week when performed in English and Doric.

A cast of 20 young people who live in and around Inverurie are staging the play as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories program and it is hoped the production will help correct the often overlooked contribution of Scottish suffragettes to the campaign for the right to vote.

Born in Kintore in Aberdeenshire in 1874, Phillips became one of the few women to work as a journalist in the UK in the early 20th century, with work as a journalist at the Aberdeen Daily Journal, one of two newspapers of the city at that time.

She was also leader of the Aberdeen suffragettes, and her commitment to the cause nearly got her fired and led to her being banned from covering political meetings for fear she would cause disruption.

As honorary secretary of the Aberdeen branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) between 1907 and 1909, she helped organize the important Edinburgh march of 1707 and corresponded frequently with leaders of the movement elsewhere. United Kingdom.

Despite the Aberdeen branch’s location far from Westminster, it became an important hub under Phillips, who worked tirelessly to maintain momentum even when his job as a journalist was under threat.

Sarah Pedersen, a professor at Robert Gordon University who has researched the activities of the branch, points out that Phillip’s time was huge as she had to deal with internal and external politics as well as arranging visits from suffragettes. eminent such as Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.

“For Caroline Phillips, her dedication to ‘the cause’ meant her livelihood as a female journalist was at risk, and she was asked to choose between her job and her politics,” Pedersen said.

“Phillips’ correspondence reveals the emotional and personal costs of working for the cause in a city far from the heart of the suffrage movement, but also the fulfilling friendships and support that involvement in the movement offered.”

Pedersen said the letters – which were frequently written using the Daily Journal’s address – also show how difficult it must have been to arrange travel for people like the London-based Pankhursts from a distance.

However, Phillips became increasingly concerned about the growing militancy of the WSPU and clashed with them after a protest took place during a visit to Aberdeen Music Hall by Henry Asquith, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, which resulted in a fight in the orchestra pit and the suffragettes being chased away.

Phillips was replaced as honorary secretary in 1909 when she suggested that the WSPU should follow the nonviolent strategy of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Emmeline Pankhurst sent her daughter, Sylvia, to temporarily take over before the branch closed, and members asked to join the wider WSPU under direct London control.

Three years later Phillips inherited a hotel in Banchory and left Aberdeen. Her editor reportedly remarked when she left that if she hadn’t been involved in “other things” she would have made a good journalist.

The play, directed by Rhona Mitchell with numerous actors from the Mitchell School of Drama, is staged at the Garioch Heritage Center in Inverurie from June 22-26 as part of the Garioch Theater Festival. It is supported by the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund and was commissioned by festival organisers, Garidge Theatre, which was created to engage young people in all aspects of theatre.

“I am thrilled to be working on A Monstrous Regiment of Women, rediscovering one of the North East’s unsung heroes and feminist trailblazer, Caroline Phillips, in a show that we hope audiences will find both entertaining and empowering” , Bissett said. , who previously worked with the Garidge Theatre.

“I love discovering these forgotten stories from Aberdeenshire’s past and bringing them to life with all the enthusiasm and energy of the young people involved. It is truly an honor to work on this project.


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