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17 January - 25 May 2003
Stirling Girls
Towards a Women's History of Stirling

During the first five months of 2003, STIRLING GIRLS will provide an opportunity for visitors to see images by and of women in the collections of the Stirling Smith, learn something of the history of women in town whose heritage is characterised by the deeds of great men, and through the talks and events programme, explore the by-ways of history and art from the women's point of view.

Stirling Smith - stirling girls The Stirling Girl image from the which the exhibition takes its name was created by artist John G. Mathieson in the 1920s, as Stirling's answer to the Charles Dana Gibson's Gibson Girl.

Work in the historical part of the exhibition ranges from a 17th century painting of the goddess Diana, to a twentieth century cartoon of Stirling by Cinders Macleod, who until her recent emigration to Canada, was Scotland's only woman cartoonist.
Artists who lived and worked locally include Nellie Harvey, who saved the work of her more famous uncle Sir George Harvey PRSA at the expense of her own, and stained glass artist Isabel Goudie.

Not all of the artists are local. The Smith is pleased to be able to exhibit Glasgow Girl Bessie MacNicol's famous painting of Vanity, and the engagement portrait of Edinburgh artist Cecile Walton. Some paintings of women in the Smith's collection are anonymous, whilst (such is the fragmentary nature of local knowledge) we are still hunting for images of Scotland's first female archaeologist Christian Maclagan (1809-1901), who, angered with the refusal of the Society of Antiquaries to give her membership, left her collection of Pictish art to the British Museum.

The artists featured will include sculptors Amelia Paton (1821-1904) who contributed no less than seven works to the Smith's opening exhibition in 1874, and Drönma, whose bust of Helen Duncan (1897-1956) the last woman prosecuted in Britain for witchcraft, has caused controversy in recent years.

The work of present day Stirling artists also feature in the exhibition, and twenty-nine women artists have contributed works. These works include paintings by Lys Hansen and Greer Ralston, traditional landscapes by Fiona Munn and Drönma, a video installation by Ann Shaw and some spectacular blacksmithing work by Elspeth Bennie. All of the contemporary work is for sale. Artists Karen Strang and Lys Hansen who are known for their feminist insights, will also contribute to the programme of talks.

The status of women's art is inextricably linked to the status of women. Stirling elected its first woman Provost in 1975, and first woman MP in 1996. The area has had and continues to have well supported women's groups fighting for suffrage and temperance legislation, or looking after the interests of the Business and Professional Women, or the country women through the network of the Scottish Women's Rural Institute. It was also among the first to have companies of Girl Guides.

The exhibition is being scripted and presented in consultation with the Smith Focus Group of primary, secondary and specialist teachers, which meets several times each term.
The subject is one which features in the 5-14 curriculum as part of history, modern studies and the expressive arts. The exhibition will be presented so that it can be used by class teachers wishing to give a Scottish and local dimension when exploring areas such as votes for women, equal opportunities, and art history.
The University of Stirling deals with the subject of Gender Studies in its departments of History and French, and the exhibition should have interest for students and lecturers alike.

The exhibition will provide an opportunity to examine and celebrate all of these aspects of women's history in central Scotland and is accompanied by -
a programme of events and lectures

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