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"The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women From The Earliest Times to 2004", edited by Elizabeth Ewan, Sue Innes, Sian Reynolds and Rose Pipes is an essential work of reference for anone with any interest at all in Scottish history or society. It would be easy to suppose from a reading of most accounts of our history that it was an essentially male story, with the female half of the population (if they feature at all) featuring in supporting roles as wives of important men or mothers of the next generation of history makers. The exception, perhaps, is Mary Queen of Scots, though she is best known primarily because she let her personal life get in the way of her better judgement and public duty, thus arguably helping confirm the tired old stereotype that males make better history.
The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women does a great deal to redress this traditional imbalance in the perception of our history. The book includes biographical entries on 830 women produced by 230 professional and amateur historians and helps shed light on the lives and experiences of women from every part of Scottish society, as well as from the worldwide Scottish diaspora. The women covered range from queens, consorts and noble via others who were renowned in their fields to unexpected or previously unknown individuals who made important contributions or have signficant or simply interesting stories to tell.
Although the work underpinning the book has been rigorous and academic, the style of presentation is approachable and intended for a general readership. Each entry is a highly readable narrative. As a result, though you might start by looking up particular individuals, you soon find yourself being drawn into the wealth of fascinating personal stories on offer in this excellent and thorougly enjoyable work.