Eilidh MacDougall - A woman worth remembering
This International Women’s Day we are celebrating the important work done by Eilidh MacDougall, cousin of the Clan's 30th Chief.
Eilidh MacDougall (left) in Dunollie's stable block in 1915.
Eilidh was an unconventional woman by the standards of the time, as in 1905, she moved to London alone and began what would be a lifelong mission to support women and girls who had been victims of sexual abuse and violence. Eilidh became one of the country’s first female social workers and the first police commissioner for women at the Metropolitan Police – the first woman in this position in the whole of the UK. She ran the Metropolitan Police Home for Women and Girls in London and volunteered her time at other shelters. Eilidh also successfully lobbied to have a law instated that meant survivors of abuse did not have to wait in the same room as their abusers in court, which we know still stands to this day.
Eilidh’s important work, though not nearly celebrated enough, is recognised in both academic work and informal media. She is one of a few key figures that make up Julia Laite’s 2022 book ‘The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey.’
This book described Eilidh as ‘the rescuer’ – Lydia, a survivor of sex trafficking, gives a statement to Eilidh which eventually helps convict her trafficker. She resides in Eilidh’s personal care whilst they wait to go to trial. The trial and subsequent conviction are described as a trial that “shaped the modern world.” Similarly, a 2018 article which was published in the Journal of British Studies mentions Eilidh’s employment by the Metropolitan Police to take statements from female victims of sexual assault. Comparing statements provided to Eilidh with those provided to other officers, the author of this work states that Eilidh had “expertise in eliciting forensic narratives suitable for courtrooms” and that without her, some of these cases would not have been successful in court.
Scottish musicians Rachel Walker and Aaron Jones wrote their song ‘Rule of Thumb’ about Eilidh’s important work – which eventually seen her awarded with an MBE – but also about their frustration that over 100 years on from these huge achievements, we are still campaigning for an end to violence against women and girls.
Eilidh MacDougall (third from the left), in Dunollie's stable block with two women and three girls whom we suspect may be her cousins Coline, in the dark dress (who would become the clan's 30th chief), Jean (mother of the clan's 31st chief) and Hope, the youngest (to whom we owe our museum's collection).