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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007, 13:36 GMT
First female provost remembered
By John Knox
Political reporter, BBC Scotland

Pic supplied by Dollar Museum
Lavinia Malcolm served as provost for Dollar Town Council
It was 100 years ago today that Scotland's first woman councillor was elected.

Mrs Lavinia Malcolm went on to become provost of Dollar Town Council in Clackmannanshire and served right through World War I.

In the elections of 1907, women were allowed to stand as candidates for local councils for the first time.

They didn't get the parliamentary vote till 1918 and weren't allowed to vote on an equal basis with men until 1928.

Lavinia Malcolm was an early suffragette but she was no Emily Pankhurst.

"She wanted women to have the vote but she was against doing anything militant or violent," said Janet Carolan, the curator of the Dollar Museum who has spent 20 years researching the background of this unsung heroine.

Democratic achievement

Mrs Malcolm was born in Forres around 1847. Her father was an iron monger and her grandfather a leather merchant who became provost of the town at one point.

She went to visit relatives at Dollar Academy, fell in love with one of the teachers there and married him.

They had one child, Dicky, who died when he was just eight years old.

Women still have an inhibition about coming forward into politics, sometimes not helped by comments from men
Keith Brown MSP

"After that, she and her husband threw themselves into local activities, like politics," said Janet.

It wasn't the women's movement that put her name forward for election in 1907, it was some friends of her husband in the local Liberal Association.

Mrs Malcolm became provost of Dollar in 1913 when the male councillors fell out over the purchase of a village hall.

She remained in that post until 1919, seeing the town through the torment of the Great War

Mrs Malcolm died the year after and is buried in the local churchyard.

The current MSP for Dollar, Keith Brown, has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for recognition of Lavinia Malcolm's democratic achievement.

'Women's perspective'

"Women still have an inhibition about coming forward into politics, sometimes not helped by comments from men," said Mr Brown.

"But I think Lavinia Malcolm should serve as an example to inspire more women to become councillors and members of parliament."

There are 262 women councillors in Scotland, 20% of the total.

There are 43 women MSPs, a third of the total and one of them, Sarah Boyack, said she wants to see equal numbers of men and women in politics.

"We have had advances, women can get through," she said.

"There are plenty of women MSPs, there are women committee conveners, women cabinet ministers, but I would like to see more of a balance and particularly more women coming into local government to give a woman's perspective on things."

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