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Wummin's Wednesday: Scotland's First Female Professor

Updated: May 11, 2022

We love a strong Scottish woman here at Walking Tours in Scotland so welcome to our new blog series, Wummin's Wednesday. We'll be posting every (or close to every) Wednesday about a Scottish women who has had an impact on her community or the world. Like our Facebook page to see our new posts every week!


For our first Wummin's Wednesday, we thought it was only right that we shine some light on Scotland’s first female professor, Margaret Fairlie. She was not only a professor but worked as a doctor and gynaecologist in Dundee for most of her life.

She graduated from the University of St Andrews with a medicine degree in 1915 and spent the next four decades working at the Dundee Royal Infirmary. It was in 1940 that she became the first women to hold a professorial chair.

As it says on Dundee Women's Trail's website she was a very busy woman during her career... "She pioneered the use of radium for cancer treatment, developed the forerunner of today’s vaginal smear tests and was partly responsible for the beginnings of Dundee’s world-renowned teaching hospital."

What an inspirational woman!


Fairlie’s struggles to be appointed in 1940 highlight a wider issue of equality for women in academia in Scotland. Historically, women have not been welcomed with open arms in leader positions. Nicola Sturgeon is the first and only female leader of the Scottish National Party (the SNP) since its beginnings in 1934.

However, things are shifting, and have been shifting, particularly in the last two decades. Scotland prides itself on being a liberal, fair country and great efforts are being made to ensure that Scotland is an equal country. Examples include the Scottish Government’s initiative to get rid of the pay gap, Universities Scotland promoting Scottish universities being involved in women-led organisations like Athena SWAN, and ACOSVO running a Women Leader’s Network for women leaders in third sector organisations.

There is work being done by organisations, politicians and individuals across our country to ensure people succeed, regardless of their gender. Whilst we still have a long way to go, we’re proud of Scotland’s efforts and willingness to pursue equality for all.

See you next Wednesday!

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