Two more Edinburgh Women Writers to get Commemorative Plaques

Two more Edinburgh Women Writers to get Commemorative Plaques

September 7, 2017

Edinburgh City of Literature Trust champions Edinburgh’s writers and is pleased to announce that two further authors will be honoured with a commemorative plaque in 2017. The scheme, run by Historic Environment Scotland, celebrates significant historic figures by awarding plaques to be erected on the buildings where they lived or worked.

In 2017 the City of Literature Trust nominated two women writers from Edinburgh to be celebrated in this way: Mary Brunton, Scottish author and ambassador of women’s education, and Christian Isobel Johnstone, prolific journalist, author, and co-editor of The Schoolmaster: The Edinburgh Weekly Magazine. They were successfully chosen as part of this year’s scheme.

In 2016 the Trust successfully championed the case for clearer public recognition of our city’s female writers, resulting in the city’s first commemorative plaques for female authors. The plaques for Mary Brunton and Christian Isobel Johnstone will be joining those of Sarah Siddons Mair, campaigner for women’s education and suffrage, Susan Ferrier, a novelist widely recognised as ‘the Scottish Jane Austen’, and Dorothy Emily Stevenson, author of the Mrs Tim books and cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Other 2017 recipients of the Commemorative Plaque Scheme include luminaries and pioneers in the fields of engineering, literature, science, sports, art, and politics. In total there are 12 recipients of plaques in this round.

Siân Bevan, Programme Manager at Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust said:

The plaques are a great reminder of the vibrant women writers who make up the incredible literary history of Edinburgh. Some of them may have, for one reason or another, fallen out of the public’s memory so it’s fantastic to have plaques in public spaces which might encourage folk to find out more about their remarkable life and works.

Edinburgh was awarded the world’s first City of Literature designation in 2004 by UNESCO in recognition of its unparalleled literary heritage. Part of the city’s on-going responsibility for this permanent designation is to celebrate and champion writers of Edinburgh. Women writers have been hugely under-represented in the city’s public plaques and statues, and commemorating the life, works and achievements of these writers are part of Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust’s mission to bring important women writers to the streets of Edinburgh, so that people living in and visiting the city are aware of the literary heritage that surrounds them.

Mary Brunton and Christian Isobel Johnstone

Mary Brunton (1778 – 1818)

Mary Burton was born on Burray – one of the Orkney Islands –  in 1778. She holds an important place in the history of Scottish women’s literature, standing alongside her contemporaries Susan Edmonstone Ferrier and Christian Isobel Johnstone in developing a tradition of national domestic fiction in post-Enlightenment Scotland. She published two novels whilst living – Self-Control (1811) and Discipline (1814), with her third novel Emmeline published posthumously by her husband Reverend Alexander Brunton in 1819.

Christian Isobel Johnstone (1781-1857)

Prolific journalist and author, Christian Isobel Johnstone, was born in Edinburgh in the parish of St. Cuthbert in 1781. She wrote a number of popular fiction and non- fiction works during her lifetime, and wished to curate and present stories in a manner that could be received by the working poor, to open up the demographic of the readership and give more people the opportunity to read. Her novel, Clain-Albin: A National Tale was published in 1815, and is perhaps her best known work. She also wrote The Saxon and the Gael (1814) and Elizabeth de Bruce (1827) among other fictional works titles, which were reviewed by the likes of James Hogg and Walter Scott.
You can find more about all of this year’s recipients over on the Historic Environment Scotland website here