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Agnes Syme Macdonald

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Agnes Syme Macdonald
Born8 September 1882
Died21 October 1966
Known forSuffragette and campaigner

Agnes Syme Macdonald (1882-1966) was a Scottish suffragette who served as the secretary of the Edinburgh branch of the WSPU before setting up the Edinburgh Women Citizens Association (WCA) in 1918.[1] She was WCA's first and longest-serving secretary. She campaigned on various social issues and was active in the Quaker relief work for European refugees (Society of Friends); the Barns School for delinquent city boys and the Edinburgh Old People's Welfare Council.

Early life

Agnes Syme Macdonald was born on 8 September 1882 at 23 Dublin Street, Edinburgh. She was the only daughter of Euphemia Henderson (born in Kinross) and Alexander Macdonald (born in Kiltarlity, Inverness). Agnes was the fifth of six children. Alexander Macdonald was a wine and spirit merchant in Edinburgh and Euphemia, took over the business in 1893.[2]

Political career

Agnes joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) and says about this choice: ‘Possibly it's because I was a so-called “lady of leisure” … At that time there were too many women running around with no training to do anything’.[2] She was among the Scottish women who travelled to London to take part in the protests in early March 1912 after the government announced that no further time would be given to the Conciliation Bill, which would have introduced a measure of women's suffrage.[3] Agnes broke a police office window with a hammer and was charged with malicious damage on 5 March 1912 and given two months' hard labour.[2]

In 1913 Agnes served as the secretary of the Edinburgh branch of the WSPU. However, she became alienated by the militant suffrage campaigns and helped set up the Edinburgh Women Citizens' Association (WCA) in 1918.[4] Such Women's citizens' associations were formed throughout Britain to politically organize women and to promote women's representation. The Edinburgh association was inaugurated in Edinburgh city chambers on 9 May 1918. According to minutes from a WCA meeting in 1918-1919 the hall were filled with women, who showed keen interest and great enthusiasm in the new movement’. Agnes was the WCA's first and longest-serving secretary.[2] Other notable members were Sarah Siddons, Lillias Tait Mitchell , Agnes "Nannie" Brown and Alexi Buttar Jack.[5]

Under Agnes' leadership WCA worked not only for women's right to vote, but included campaigning:[2]

  • for equal pay
  • for promotion for women teachers
  • against marriage bans in employment
  • for pre-school nursery and play facilities
  • support for those suffering from mental illness and handicap
  • for public health
  • for social housing
  • against child sexual abuse
  • for national maternity service

Agnes retired as secretary of the Edinburgh WCA In July 1939. She continued her career as a campaigner in the Quaker relief work for European refugees (Society of Friends); the Barns School for delinquent city boys and the Edinburgh Old People's Welfare Council.[2]

Private life

Agnes cared for her younger, disabled brother Roddy. She shared a house with him in Strathfillan Road, Edinburgh.[2] Agnes remained unmarried and had no children. She died on 21 October 1966, aged eighty-four, after staying in a nursing home, at St Raphael's Home, Blackford Avenue, Edinburgh.[2]


  1. ^ Leneman, Leah (1991). A Guild Cause. Aberdeen University Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0080412016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Agnes Macdonald". Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  3. ^ Innes, Sue (2004). "Constructing Women's Citizenship in the Interwar Period: the Edinburgh Women Citizens' Association". Women's History Review. 13 (4): 621–647. doi:10.1080/09612020400200414.
  4. ^ "A Gude Cause Maks a Strong Arm - Biographical Sketches of Leading Figures in the Women's Suffrage Movement Around the Time of the Edinburgh Procession and Women's Demonstration of 1909".
  5. ^ Edinburgh Women Citizens Association,, Retrieved 24 May 2017
This page was last edited on 17 January 2019, at 19:17
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