Roxanne Reddington-Wilde, PhD

Scottish Highland Women’s Roles & Social Identities from the Early Modern Era to the 20th Century

In the Scottish Highlands, a remarkable continuity of social roles, occupations and expectations runs through the centuries, from the culture’s foremothers in Early Ireland through to the 19th C. and even, in some key roles and occupations, into the 20th.

Using legal documents, poetry, song, letters, images and more we will get an insight into the positions and occupations of women in the region during this time.

When young, aristocratic Katherine Ruthven of Perthshire dreamt of her future in 1550, what did she imagine? Marriage, yes, but what other actions and relationships were open to her? When Mairead Ghriogarach’s time with her foster child, Susuidh, came to a close in late 1700s Highlands, why did she put her farewell into poetry? For that matter, why did the Early Irish St. Bridget, an island and some 1000 years earlier, spend her summers milking cows (and miraculously multiplying buckets of milk) in the women-run grazing grounds just as Christina MacDonald did with her children in the Hebridean island of Lewis in the early 1900s?

We will learn more about these women and others, including Marsaili nighean Dòmhnaill who, in a poetic argument with her sister, asserted she wanted to be just like “All the women I’m descended from.”

Roxanne Reddington-Wilde, PhD, (roxanne.reddington-wilde@go.cambridgecollege.edu) teaches linguistic and cultural anthropology, archaeology, art history, geography and geology at Cambridge College. She received her MA in Celtic Studies from Edinburgh University in 1985 and her PhD in Celtic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University in 1995.