|Administrative / biographical background:
The Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service (1914-1919) was part of the suffrage response to the First World War. At the outbreak of the First World War, a large number of the existing suffrage societies put their administrative skills at the disposal of the war effort. The Scottish Federation of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, at the suggestion of Dr Elsie Inglis, put forward the idea of female medical units to serve on the front line. The War Office rejected the idea, but nonetheless private donations, the fundraising of local societies and the support of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies financed a number of units staffed entirely by women. The organisation's headquarters were in Edinburgh throughout the war, with committees also in Glasgow and London, working closely with the London office of the Croix Rouge Francaise. The Fawcett Society was particularly involved with the London Unit of the Scottish Women's Hospitals. The first unit mobilised established a 200 bed Auxiliary Hospital at Royaumont Abbey in Dec 1914. In Apr 1915, Dr Inglis herself was at the head of a unit based in Serbia. By Jun 1915 SWH had responsibility for more than 1,000 beds with 250 staff including 19 women doctors. The Austrian offensive of that summer led to their camps being overrun and a number of the staff including Inglis herself being taken prisoner, only to be released after negotiations. By the end of the war there were fourteen Scottish Women's Hospitals in France, Serbia, Russia, Salonica and Macedonia. Inglis herself was ill with cancer by 1917 while working in Russia. She and her unit were part of the retreat of forces to Archangel and she was evacuated to Newcastle on the 25 Nov 1919 of that year, only to die the following day. The Scottish Women's Hospitals work continued until the end of the war.
he National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (1898-1919) was established out of collaborative efforts by the various suffrage societies. In the 1890s, after the death of Lydia Becker, the suffrage movement suffered from a lack of unified leadership and divisions developed between groups. However, in 1895, with a general election imminent, the two main London societies and the other provincial organisations agreed to co-ordinate their activities. This temporary alliance worked well so that in Jun 1896 the London and Manchester groups formed a joint parliamentary lobbying committee, the Combined Sub-Committee, which representatives of Edinburgh and Bristol soon joined. At a conference in Brighton in Oct 1897 at which the country was divided up into administrative areas, it was recognised that there was a need for a national body and twelve months later a system of federation was agreed and the Combined Committee was reconstituted as the executive committee of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. The new body's overall aim was to co-ordinate the various existing groups, act as a form of liaison committee between these groups and parliamentary supporters and thereby help obtain parliamentary franchise for women. These included the North of England Society (formerly the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage), the Central & Western Society (formerly the Central National Society for Women's Suffrage), the Central & East of England Society (formerly the Central Committee for Women's Suffrage) which the previous administrative division of the country had created as well as the provincial groups which existed throughout the country. Each of these independent organisations was represented by members on the NUWSS Executive Committee while the overall structure remained decentralised, with each local body autonomously responsible for work in their area. The constitution strictly forbade party political activity or affiliation on part of the parent or constituent bodies and this political neutrality was mirrored in the diversity of opinion within its leadership which included Millicent Fawcett, Lady Frances Balfour, Helen Blackburn, Priscilla Bright McLaren, Eleanor Rathbone and Eva Gore-Booth. Despite the formation of the new NUWSS, there was a marked decline in suffrage activity around the turn of the century as interests became focused on individual issues such as licensing and education while the Boer War overshadowed politics. A remedy for this inertia was sought through the National Convention in Defence of Civic Rights for Women, and in its wake the NUWSS's role changed as it began to implement a policy of creating local pressure committees financed and supported by the central body, creating more centralised planning. However, until 1906 their approach remained focused on supporting Private Members Bills in the House of Commons. The lack of success led some members to envisage a more radical method and in 1903 Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst founded the Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU) in affiliation with the Independent Labour Party. Two years later, they left the North of England Society, and with it the NUWSS, to concentrate on the militant strand of the movement. The NUWSS continued alongside and subsequently in public opposition to the civil disobedience of the WSPU, preferring to persist in using constitutional means although they began to also undertake public activities such as marches, demonstrations, rallies and pageants in addition to their parliamentary work. By 1907, it was necessary to reorganise the system of regional federations due to their increasing numbers and which rose to nearly 500 by 1913. In addition, changes in the makeup of membership had an effect on the nature of the organisation. Increasing working-class participation, particularly in the Northwest, combined with disillusionment regarding the Liberal Party, which for decades had been their main parliamentary support, led to closer collaboration with the Labour Party. In 1912, the Labour Party made support for female suffrage part of its policy for the first time. When, that same year the NUWSS launched the Election Fighting Fund policy, which promised support to any party officially supporting suffrage in an election where the candidate was challenging an anti-suffrage Liberal, the effect was to effectively support the Labour Party. In 1914, dissension occurred in the NUWSS due to the groups' official stance of subordinating campaigning to support for war work. Many members, including a majority of the executive, left the group and many joined the Women's International League in 1915. However, political activity did not end: a National Union of Women's Interest committee was established to watch over the social, economic interests of women. Suffrage agitation was resumed in earnest in 1916, when the Consultative Committee of Constitutional Women's Suffrage Societies was established in Mar 1916 in response to the government proposed changes to the national electoral register, to take effect at the end of the First World War with the aim of petitioning the government for the inclusion of women's suffrage in the franchise Reform Bill. Consequently the NUWSS was key in the final creation of the women's franchise section of the Representation of the People Act of 1918. However, from Apr 1919, they redesigned their aims to promoting equality of franchise between men and women and allowing the affiliation of societies with this object, becoming the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship in the process.
Elsie Inglis (1864-1917) was a suffragist, doctor and founder of the Scottish Women's Hospitals movement. Inglis enrolled as a student at Sophia Jex-Blake's Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women in 1886 but in 1889 moved to the new Medical College for Women, founded by her father and influential friends. She completed her clinical training in Glasgow, qualified in Aug 1892, and then spent a year in London, working at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson's New Hospital for Women. It was in London that she first found herself working with suffragists, and with their encouragement took up public speaking. On her return to Scotland in 1894 Inglis became increasingly involved in suffrage work. She disapproved of militancy, and spoke regularly at meetings of the constitutional Edinburgh National Society for Women's Suffrage (ENSWS); as a professional woman who had worked in the slums and seen the effects of poverty, she was a convincing speaker, and much in demand. She subsequently became Honorary Secretary of both the ENSWS and of the Scottish Federation of Women's Suffrage Societies (SFWSS). In 1894 Inglis founded a small hospital for women and children in Edinburgh, The Hospice, while maintaining a consultant post at the Bruntsfield Hospital for women, and in 1911 the two hospitals were amalgamated under her directorship. Soon after war broke out in 1914, the 50 year old Inglis offered the services of a mobile women-run hospital unit to the Scottish military authorities, an offer that was firmly turned down. Undaunted, she went to the SFWSS for support, and it was under the aegis of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies that fundraising began. The first 'Scottish Women's Hospital' units were established by Jan 1915, and the organisation expanded rapidly till by the end of 1919 it had organised 14 hospitals in France, Serbia, Russia, Romania and Macedonia, all staffed by women, the largest and best-known being at the Abbey of Royaumont, in France. Elsie Inglis herself led two units in the Balkans between May 1915 and Oct 1917, despite being ill for the last year. She died in Nov 1917, a few days after her return to England, but her organisation continued its work well into 1920. In 1925 the surplus funds of the Scottish Women's Hospitals organisation were used to found the Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital, which opened in 1925.