Travelling the Distance

A commissioned project by Shauna McMullan for the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, 2007

The social and ethnographic research for this project involved a year-long journey throughout mainland Scotland and the islands, meeting with 100 women. Each woman was invited to write a sentence, in their handwriting, in recognition of another woman they thought had made, or continues to make, an important contribution to Scotland. The contributors came from varied backgrounds, geographies and generations, with each woman referring the next.

This research formed the basis of a sculpture, commissioned by The Scottish Executive to document the contribution of Scottish women to improving women's lives and advancing democracy. Permanently sited in The Scottish Parliament, it exists as 100 porcelain handwritten sentences in Scots, English and Gaelic, mapping the diverse lives of Scottish women including the pioneering doctor Sophia Jex-Blake, Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, Dundee missionary Mary Slessor, politician Jennie Lee and Maggie Fyffe, one of the architects of the community buy-out of Eigg.

This journey through the history, culture, politics and geography of Scotland made under the direction and through the words of 100 Scottish women, formed a collective narrative; one that identified the importance and significance of unofficial histories and oral traditions in defining identity.

The sculpture was installed to coincide with the centenary year of the Scottish Women's Suffragette Federation and was opened on the 88th anniversary of the first woman to vote at a General Election.

An artist book made to accompany the sculpture recorded the choreography of the project, bringing together the 100 handwritten sentences and their authors as well as a map that charts the involved women's relatedness and connectivity to each other.

Shauna chose to write the following sentence in recognition of Sam Ainsley to be included in the work...

"always in red, she made everyone of us believe we were great"

Click here to read more about the project.

Travelling the Distance by Shauna McMullan