Building Stories: A Podcast from Edinburgh City of Literature and Historic Environment Scotland

Alice Carr
Comms Officer
Edinburgh City of Literature Trust

1 September 2022

Recognising the literary women who have shaped Edinburgh's history

Edinburgh is a city of stories, and the memorials to the writers who wrote them are all around us. The Scott Monument towers over Princes Street, honouring the father of the historical novel Sir Walter Scott. Our national bard Robert Burns stands at the bottom of Constitution Street. Poet Robert Fergusson strolls down the Canongate.

But where are Edinburgh's literary women? It's an unbelievable truth that Edinburgh has more statues to animals than to women writers.

It's important to us here at City of Lit that the lives of our women writers are remembered, and that their work is kept alive in a meaningful way. Edinburgh City of Literature has been working with Historic Environment Scotland to address the imbalance in the writers and storytellers who are commemorated in our built environment.

Through the HES plaque scheme, three women and their great literary careers have been recognised: Mary Brunton, Christian Isobel Johnstone, and Rebecca West. The plaques commemorating these women have been installed on buildings in Edinburgh which were significant in their lives. Nominations of placques for Lady Margaret Sackville and Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane were highly commended by the independent jury.

To ensure that their legacies are remembered, we've produced Building Stories: a series of podcasts profiling the lives, careers and major works of these five writers. We want their stories to be told.

Mary Brunton was a highly acclaimed Scottish novelistof the early 1800s whose career rivalled Jane Austen’s. Her Historic Environment Scotland plaque is installed at 35 Albany Street, Edinburgh, where she lived.

Christian Isobel Johnstone was a journalist and author in Scotland in the nineteenth century. She was a significant early feminist and an advocate of other liberal causes in her era. Her Historic Environment Scotland plaque is installed at 12 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh, where she lived.

Rebecca West, born Cicily Isabel Fairfield, was a British author, journalist, literary critic, and travel writer. The Historic Environment Scotland plaque is installed at 2 Hope Park Terrace, where she lived.

Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane was a Scottish author, biographer, philosopher, suffragist, nursing administrator, and social welfare worker. The nomination for a Historic Environment Scotland plaque is a commemoration of her life and work.

Lady Margaret Sackville was an English poet and children's author. The nomination for a Historic Environment Scotland plaque is a commemoration of her life and work.

You can find out more about the Historic Environment Scotland plaque scheme and when it will reopen for nominations here.

Building Stories was researched and produced by the wonderful I Am Loud Productions. You can find out more about them and their work here.