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Suffragettes demonstrating outside court

20th Century Revolutions and how they relate to the surrounding area

By Collections blog

Written by Calum Boyde

A revolution is a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes or operations that could be peaceful or violent. The world has gone through many revolutions from the peaceful ones, like the Reformation and the Print Revolution, to the violent types, like the American and French Revolutions. In World War One and Two, Women contributed to the war effort by filling jobs in that were primarily male positions. How do some revolutions in the 20th century relate to the Dumfriesshire area? Which this article seeks to explain. 

The Russian Revolution of 1917 started due to a combination of poverty, lack of food, inflation of the Ruble (the currency of Russia), opposition to the war and the hate towards the Tsar rulership. The February Revolution was a mostly peaceful protest as the protestors were protesting for bread and the garrison of troops were sent to defuse the protest. The garrison of troops shot some protesters, but the protesters kept to the streets. The result of the protest was that Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne. The October Revolution was led by the Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin. Their goal was to overthrow the provisional government and set up a soviet government. They managed to occupied government buildings and strategic places in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg). The result of this revolution was that Lenin became the leader of the country and founded the Soviet Russia. This revolution relates to this region as at the end of the Second World War began The Cold War. During the Cold War, the first Nuclear Power station in Scotland, Chapelcross Nuclear Power Station, was built. Chapelcross was built from 1955 to 1959 and ran until 2004, before being decommissioned. The Cooling Towers were destroyed in 2007. 

Figure 1 Bolsheviks in Moscow. Credit Flickr

The German Revolution of 1918 to 1919 happened due to the fact the Germans faced post war problems. The revolution started as a mutiny at Kiel but then spread to Berlin. This spread led to a political revolution. Many people took part for different reasons: opposition to the Kaiser, opposition to the war and to get back to where Germany was before the war. This led the Kaiser to abdicate the throne and the government replaced the Kaiser at the Reichstag (Government building) with itself. The Revolution eventually came to an end when the Weimar Republic was formed but the peace wouldn’t last long. In October 1929, Wall Street crashed leading to a depression, which hit Germany hard, and led to the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler to rise. In 1939, Nazi Germany started invading Poland which started the Second World War. The Factory was reused as a depo for ammunitions. 

Figure 2 Revolution in Kiel, Germany. Credit WikiMedia

The Suffragettes movement is most likely the most known revolution that happened in Britain in the 20th century. Women wanted the right to vote, both violent and peaceful protests happen. These ranged from marches and lobbying MPs to not eating in jail and throwing yourself in front of a horse. In 1918, women over 30 was giving the right to vote but those women weren’t the ones who worked in the factories, protests still had to happen to make sure women had equal rights as men for voting. It wouldn’t be until 1928, where women over 21 was giving the right to vote and equal rights with men. At the museum, we are currently researching about who worked at the factory and what they did after the factory. Some of the women who worked at the factory were suffragettes as they didn’t appear in the 1911 census. 

Figure 3 Suffragettes protesting outside court. Credit Wikimedia

Now we go to the latter half of the century to talk about the remaining revolutions. The long sixties happened mainly in America during the late 50s to the early 70s. This is more of a time frame than a revolution, but it features many revolutions that happen at the same time. The Civil Rights movement was a revolution were African Americans fought for their own Civil Rights due to segregation and in the south the Jim Crow Laws. Many major events happened in this movement like Brown Vs the Board of Education of Topeka, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, Sit ins, Birmingham, Alabama, The March on Washington and the violent Watt Riots. The leaders of the Movement were Martin Luther King Jr, who led the peaceful protests which happened mainly in the south, and people like Malcolm X, who led the violent protests in the north. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Act of 1965, gave African Americans the freedom they wanted. This is only one revolution that happened but was likely the biggest. 

Figure 4 Martin Luther King standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C, United States. Credit Flickr

The Women’s revolution also happened in the long sixties.  This revolution was about Women breaking the mold of what they were in society. The most known event that happened in this Revolution was when women invaded Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1968, where the women threw out items like bras and crowned a sheep, Miss America. While women were breaking the mold, the youth were forging their own identity.  

Another prominent movement in the long sixties was the birth of Youth Culture. This culture was for the youth and were about breaking away from what they had to be and what they watched and listened to. Acts like The Beatles and Elvis Presley were popular among the Youth. 

The last Revolution, to be talked about is the fall of the Soviet Union. This was a democratic revolution caused by economic problems of communism and the influence and economic prosperity of the western countries such as UK, US, Canada, Western Europe and Australia. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked the ending of the Cold War and of the Soviet Union in 1991. This was the first-time since 1961 that the capital was not split. 

Figure 5 People climbing up the Berlin Wall. Credit WikiMedia

As you have seen, the 20th century was full of revolution. From the German and Russian to the Suffragettes and the Long Sixties, revolutions can be a mix of both violent and peaceful tactics to achieve their goal. Many revolutions effect one country of the world but could have an effect to the world in later years. The German revolution led to the creation of Nazi Germany and the Second World War, The Russian Revolution on the other hand led to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and the Cold War. The Suffragettes had the biggest impact to this region as it was a revolution that happened in this country and lead to women gaining the right to vote. The Long Sixties, even though it happened mostly in America we are still feeling the effects of it today with the Black Lives Matter and Women movements. 

Doctor Flora Murray.

LGBTQ+ History Month | Doctor Flora Murray: Suffragette, Doctor and Local Heroine

By Collections blog

LGBTQ+ History Month is celebrate every year in February, and aims to bring awareness to often neglected areas of history through increasing the visibility of queer folk throughout history. 2021’s theme is “Body, Mind, Spirit”, so it’s only right that The Devil’s Porridge Museum that the Devil’s Porridge Museum celebrates a woman local to Gretna.

 Flora Murray was born in 1869 and grew up in Dumfriesshire. She the daughter of a retired naval commander, the fourth of six children, and part of a prominent local family. Flora’s middle-class upbringing allowed her to take advantages of the improvements in girls’ education: she attended schools in both London and Germany.

Flora’s love of learning didn’t end there. In 1890, at the age of 21, she undertook six months training as a nurse probationer at the London Hospital. Deciding on a career in medicine, she then enrolled at the London School of Medicine for Women—the first medical school in Britain to train women doctors. Like many women doctors, Flora then worked in a low-paid and low-status job as a medical assistant in an asylum in Dumfriesshire. Women medical professionals were often never even considered for roles in mainstream hospitals because of the male dominated appointment boards.[1] Flora then completed her education at Durham University, getting her Bachelor of Medicine in 1903 and her Doctor of Medicine in 1905.


Doctor and Suffragette

After graduating Flora worked as a medical officer at the Belgrave Hospital for Children before getting a job as an anaesthetist at the Chelsea Hospital for Women. In 1912, she co-founded, with Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the Women’s Hospital for Children. The hospital’s purpose was to care for the working-class children of the local community, and its motto was “deeds, not words.”—which might give you a slight clue to the two co-founders’ women’s suffrage leanings.

Flora was a committed suffragette. Although she was never arrested or force-fed in prison like many of her suffragette sisters-in-arms, she played a critical role in the militancy of the Women’s Social and Political Union. She treated suffragettes who were force-fed in prison, caring for them until they had recovered. After the Cat-and-Mouse-Act came into force, she was even put under surveillance by Scotland Yard because officers suspected she was helping suffragettes evade recapture.[2] She was also a vocal opponent of force-feeding, arguing that it irretrievably harmed some women’s health.[3]


World War One

The Staff of Flora and Louisa’s WW1 hospital in Paris.

By the outbreak of war in August 1914, Flora was an experienced doctor. But WW1 changed everything. Teaming up with Louisa Garrett Anderson (more on her later!) again, they formed the Women’s Hospital Corps. Knowing that the British Government were not particularly fond of women doctor’s (they’d already told fellow medical woman Elsie Inglis to “go home and sit still” when she approached them about opening a hospital unit), Flora and Louisa instead went to France.[4] There they opened up a hospital in a hotel in Paris. The injuries and illnesses treated during war were world’s away from their pre-1914 work. Flora’s practice went from being mainly focused on women and children to working on men with horrific wounds. Medicine had to adapt and develop quickly. Despite these obstacles, Flora and Louisa’s hospital was such a success with patients that by 1915 they were invited by the British Government to run a large hospital in London. During the war, the Endell Street Military Hospital, which was often referred to as the ‘Suffragette Hospital’, treated almost 50,000 soldiers.[5]

Flora working at Endell Street Military Hospital

Gay Icons: Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson

Louisa has been mentioned frequently in this blog so far, because she worked closely with Flora over many years. Louisa was also a doctor, and came from a VERY prominent family. Her mother was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman to qualify as a physician in Britain, and her aunt was Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the constitutional suffragists. The two women shared many interests—feminism, medicine and a commitment to the suffragettes—Louisa had even spent time in prison for the cause!

Flora and Louisa after receiving CBEs in 1917.

But not only were the two partners-in-work, they were also partners-in-love. Much has been written about the invisibility of lesbians in history, and many historians have commented on the blurred lines between close friendship and women who love women.[6] However, in the case of Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson, I believe they were clearly romantic partners. Here’s my evidence:

  1. Flora had past relationships with women. She’d lived with Dr Elsie Inglis in Scotland for many years and Rebecca Jennings posits that they were in a relationship.[7]

  2. Flora dedicated her book, Women as Army Surgeons, to Louisa. It read: ‘To Louisa Garrett Anderson | Bold, Cautious, True and my Loving Companion.’ If that isn’t a declaration of love, I don’t know what is.

  3. Flora referred to Louisa as “my loving comrade” and Louisa told her sister-in-law that the women hated being apart.[8]

  4. They also wore matching diamond rings![9]

  5. Finally, the two women even share a grave with the words “we have been gloriously happy” written upon it.


Flora’s Gretna Connection

So now we’ve learnt all about Flora’s incredible war-work and her loving relationship with Louisa, how was she connected to H.M. Factory Gretna? Well, apart from being a local girl, Flora also paid a visit to the Factory in 1918. Her brother, Major Murray, was standing as a parliamentary candidate for Dumfriesshire, and Flora addressed meetings of women electors to express her sister-ly support.

We’re very proud of Flora’s connection to H.M Factory Gretna and we’re also proud to celebrate her the LGBTQ+ History Month!

For more information on Flora and her WW1 work, I really recommend Wendy Moore’s book Endell Street: The Women Who Ran Britain’s Trailblazing Military Hospital.


[1] Wendy Moore, Endell Street: The Women Who Ran Britain’s Trailblazing Military Hospital (Atlantic Books, 2020) p. 13.

[2] The 1913 Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act, more commonly known as the Cat and Mouse Act, was a piece of legislation that allowed for the early release of hunger striking prisoners who were ill, and also allowed for their recall to prison once they’d recovered. Wendy Moore, Endell Street: The Women Who Ran Britain’s Trailblazing Military Hospital (Atlantic Books, 2020) p. 24.

[3] Cowman, Krista, Women of the Right Spirit: Paid Organisers of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) 1904-18 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), p. 178.

[4] Read more about Elsie Inglis’ wartime experiences in Eileen Crofton’s The Women of Royaumont A Scottish Women’s Hospital on the Western Front, (Birlinn, 1999)

[5] Geddes, Jennian F. “Deeds and words in the suffrage military hospital in Endell Street.” Medical history vol. 51,1 (2007): 79-98.

[6] See Sharon Marcus, Between Women Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England, (Princeton University Press, 2009) and Martha Vicinus, Intimate Friends Women Who Loved Women, 1778-1928, (Chicago University Press, 2004).

[7] See Rebecca Jennings, A Lesbian History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Women Since 1500, (Greenwood World Publishing, 2007)

[8] Wendy Moore, Endell Street: The Women Who Ran Britain’s Trailblazing Military Hospital (Atlantic Books, 2020) p. 27.

[9] Wendy Moore, Endell Street: The Women Who Ran Britain’s Trailblazing Military Hospital (Atlantic Books, 2020) p. 27.

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