International Women's Day 2016

19th Century Skye poet tops Outstanding Women Twitter poll

Màiri Mhòr nan Oran (Mary MacPherson)

A 19th Century nurse, poet and songwriter from Skeabost on the Isle of Skye has topped a social media poll of Outstanding Women of Scotland through the ages.

Màiri Mhòr nan Oran (Mary MacPherson) was announced the overall winner of the online poll to coincide with International Women’s Day on Tuesday, 8th March.

Since launching the 2016 Outstanding Women of Scotland campaign on St. Andrew’s Day, cultural charity the Saltire Society has been celebrating women from throughout Scottish history via a series of daily Tweets. Fellow Twitter users were asked to vote for their favourites from a list of more than 80 outstanding women from Scottish history.

A wide range of Historic Scottish women have been celebrated as part of the campaign, from Mary King, who famously has an Edinburgh close and visitor attraction named after her to Dorothy Donaldson Buchanan, the first female member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Màiri Mhòr nan Oran was born on the Isle of Skye in 1821 and, after being briefly arrested and imprisoned for theft in 1872, turned to poetry to protest her innocence and express her anger through Gaelic verse. Following her release from prison, she lived in Glasgow where she worked as a nurse and became well known for her poetry and songs. She was a supporter of land reform and, amongst other things, used her verse to urge Skye crofters to resist their landlords, including through perhaps her best known poem “Incitement of the Gaels”. Màiri died following a short illness in 1898. A plaque to her memory was unveiled in 1966 at Skeabost in Skye and there is a more recent plaque outside her last home in Portree, erected by the Portree Local History Society.

Nominations for the Saltire Society’s ‘Outstanding Women of Scotland’ 2016 campaign are due to close on Friday, 11th March.

You can nominate HERE.

Nominees must be living, contemporary examples of Scottish women who have made a significant contribution to Scottish culture and society.

The 2016 inductees will join the ranks of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Singer and writer Anne Lorne Gilles, and Strathclyde University Engineering Professor Rebecca Lunn., who were inducted at the inaugural celebration in 2015.

Commenting on the results of the Twitter poll, Saltire Society Programme Manager Sarah Mason said:

“In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, it’s been great to have had so much interest and interaction from social media users in relation to this poll and the wider ‘Outstanding Women of Scotland’ campaign. The historic Scottish women we have been celebrating since launching the 2016 campaign on St. Andrew’s Day came from a wide variety of backgrounds. They included a campaigner for women’s rights and birth control, musicians, an astronomer, a theatre director, writers, a weather presenter and many others.

“I’m particularly pleased that the overall winner is someone who is perhaps less well know than many of the other more prominent figures on our list of outstanding women of Scotland through the ages. Hopefully, more people will now be encouraged to find out more about the outstanding women from history who have made a contribution to Scotland.


International Women's Day 2015

2015 Outstanding Women of Scotland

The ceremony took place on the afternoon of International Women’s Day 2015, Sunday 8th March, at the Glasgow Women’s Library.

We are delighted to announce our  inaugural ‘Outstanding Women of Scotland’ inductees. 

Announced at a event at Glasgow Women's Library on 8th March 2015 (International Women's Day) celebrating the achievements of Scottish women from all walks of life based on nominations from the general public.:


·         Edinburgh Napier Professor of Creative Writing Bashabi Fraser

·         Former MP, MEP and MSP Winifred Ewing

·         Poet and Novelist Jackie Kay MBE

·         Songwriter Karine Polwart

·         Former President, Industrial Tribunals (Scotland), Dr. Doris Littlejohn CBE

·         Poet, dramatist and Scotland’s Makar Liz Lochhead

·         Singer and writer Dr Anne Lorne Gillies

·         Former Advocate General of Scotland Elish Angiolini DBE

·         Strathclyde University Engineering Professor Rebecca Lunn

·        Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon

Each of the inductees was presented with a limited edition print from up and coming printmaker Jessica Copsey and has been invited to become part of the ongoing Saltire Celebrates programme.


International Women's Day 2014

Having collated all your votes on Twitter and Facebook we can now reveal that the Twitter's Choice for 'Outstanding Woman of Scotland' is

Professor Ailsa MacKay.

Thank you to everyone for your Twitter and Facebook votes and don't forget to fill out the nomination form to celebrate your favourite Outstanding Woman in our year long campaign.


Ailsa McKay


6 June 1963 - 5 March 2014

Professor Ailsa McKay was an outstanding thinker, economist, teacher, and campaigner for women's equality.  She was a founding member of the Scottish Women's Budget Group and European Gender Budgeting Network, government adviser, and equality activist.  Her work on alternative thinking about how economic policy can and should advance women's equality has influenced the Scottish Government (among others) in recent years.  Ailsa was a member of the Scottish Government's Equality and Budgets Advisory Group and has been an Adviser to the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee.  She was the first woman Professor of Economics at Glasgow Caledonian University, where she established the Women in Scotland's Economy Research Centre as Scotland's foremost source of data, analysis and research on women's economic contribution and potential to Scotland's economic growth and wellbeing.  As a feminist economist Ailsa was the first member in Scotland of the International Association for Feminist Economics. Ailsa was an advocate of a Citizen's Basic Income as a radical alternative to social protection and welfare, and has written widely on this topic, as well as on gender budget analysis, and economics for equality.  Ailsa was an adviser on government panels on welfare reform, and a highly regarded academic and scholar.

Ailsa McKay was an exceptional campaigner for women's equality.  Her commitment to women’s equality and social justice are outstanding, as is her capacity for compassion and intellectual engagement.  Her work has pioneered new thinking on economic and social policy and has led to real change in government policy in Scotland and elsewhere.

The Saltire Society would like to take this oportunity to celebrate Ailsa's life and all of her achievements. She was an important voice in Scotland that will be greatly missed. Our thoughts go out to her family and friends at this time.