Dundee Women

The current display in our searchroom is dedicated to the women of Dundee. We are celebrating 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which allowed women over 30 to vote in general elections. Also its the 100th anniversary of the appointment first female police officer in Dundee this year. Plus March is Women’s history month in the UK.

Detail from Agnes Husband’s Burgess Ticket. She was awarded the freedom of the city in 1926.

The display features 7 documents which relate to the lives of 7 women. Ranging from Suffragettes to shop-workers we have tried to feature the different types of women who lived in the city. The display includes the burgess ticket of Agnes Husband, one of the first female Dundee councillors, a letter of reference for a shop worker Davina Browne and a certificate for an LLA to Elizabeth Malcolm. My favourite is Valentine Beaton.

Valentine, or sometimes Valentina, was born in 1854 in Apple Wynd, Montrose. She moved to Dundee around 1871 to work in one of the many mills in the city. By all accounts Valentine was like one of the thousands of women who moved here to work in the mills and factories that were springing up. I first came across her name in the Matron’s book from the Female Rescue Home. The Home was located on Milnbank Road in Dundee and opened in 1877. The home was for young “fallen” women – most of whom had been in and out of prison many times.

Valentine was admitted on November 20th 1878. Her first two months appear to have been quite quiet as she is not mentioned by the Matron. On January 16th 1879 she shows temper and this mood continues to the following day. On 24th January she used bad language and refused to work, but was pleasant and obedient on the following day. It didn’t last long as, despite being advised otherwise she insisted on leaving the home on February 18th. She had been in a bad temper and repeatedly asked to get out. The matron notes “I thought it better to let her go seeing her influence was not for the good. The Home is much quieter since she went away.”

Valentine leaves the Rescue Home

After searching the newspapers we found out that between 1870 and 1894 Valentine was brought before the Dundee Police Court 35 times and 12 times in her native Montrose – that’s a grand total of 47 times. Her crimes included breach of the peace, disorderly conduct, assault, drunken behaviour or loitering. On most occasions she was sentenced to 60 days imprisonment, no sooner would she get out then a few days later she would be back at court. Although some newspaper reports referred to her as Valentine Beaton or Miller, there is no record of her having married a Mr Miller. She did marry James Douglas on 22nd February 1884 and her life appears to have calmed down a bit – she only had 4 convictions after her marriage. On 3rd January 1890 her brother Adam was in court for assault. It seems that on New Year’s Day he had visited her and James’ house in Montrose. Adam offered Valentine a drop of whisky to celebrate the New Year, but she refused. Upon hearing her refusal Adam struck his sister. Valentine lived until the age of 83, dying at Maryfield Hospital in 1937. Her’s is just one of the many stories about the women of Dundee.

The display case is on show in our searchrooom. Anyone is welcome to drop in and browse the display. The display will run through until mid March.

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