7 Tips for Running a Successful Campaign (according to Helen Lowe)

Courtesy of Lothian Health Services Archive, Edinburgh University Library

When Helen Lowe conducted her campaign in favour of the preservation of the special status afforded to the Bruntsfield Hospital for Women and Children and the Elsie Inglis Maternity Memorial Hospital as hospitals staffed exclusively by female medical professionals, her experience taught her a great many lessons on the running of an effective campaign. Luckily for us, we can access these lesson and learn from Helen’s success. Here are some of the tips and tricks that Helen’s papers –hosted by the Lothian Health Services Archive—seem to recommend:

1. Have a clear objective

Sometimes, issues surrounding certain specific campaigns can be complex and multi-faceted. It is important, however, to keep actions focussed on specific aims and to be able to explain those aims concisely and clearly.

‘A mass meeting is to be held in the Usher Hall on Wednesday, April 17th at 7.30 p.m. with the object of passing a resolution to initiate action to safeguard the maintenance of the status quo of the […] hospitals as hospitals for women patients, staffed by women.’

Despite not being unaware of the larger issues facing female medical staff and patients throughout Scotland and the UK, Helen knew that in order for her campaign to gain momentum, it needed to maintain a solid, central statement of intent. This ensured all efforts would be geared toward achieving the most important or most pressing goals.

2. Find allies

As Helen’s correspondence demonstrates, building a strong network of interested participants in relevant organisations and institutions is fundamental to a fruitful campaign. And it’s important to remember that allies can be found where one least expects them:

‘Several of the most distinguished medical men in Edinburgh are on the side of the women.’

Despite the staffing of the hospital being primarily a female concern, gaining the trust and support of ‘the most distinguished medical men in Edinburgh’ proved an essential boost for Helen’s campaign, for it served to fight the gender stereotyping attached to the issue, and thus leave space for more administrative, medical and legal discussions.

3. Raise public interest

Support from appropriate political, professional or cultural groups can certainly do much to improve the chances of a campaign, but nothing is more powerful than public opinion. As Helen puts it in one of her letters:

‘The wider the support, the more likely we are to succeed.’

Once the aims and methods of the campaign have been established, it is time to shout about it and make sure more and more people take the cause to heart.

Courtesy of Lothian Health Services Archive, Edinburgh University Library

4. Create easily actionable tasks

Getting people to listen to your concerns is certainly an essential part of the success of a campaign. Taking action, however, is what makes the difference. So as to encourage a larger number of supporters to transform that support into action, it’s important to come up with simple and effective steps that everyone can take with relative ease:

‘At the meeting each member of the audience took away a card […] in order that they might send it to their Member of Parliament. […] We wish to impress our Members of Parliament with the sincere demand there is for the retention of the women’s hospitals.’

By providing all supporters with a pre-written postcard, Helen ensured that everyone who wished to take part in the action to save the hospitals would be able to do so without requiring too much effort or commitment.

5. Avoid misconceptions

Sometimes, information doesn’t seem to come across the way it is supposed to. Be it the consequence of an honest mistake or an attempt on the part of the opposition to sabotage the action, this can result in losing supporters and, in the long run, will damage the campaign. In order to avoid misunderstandings, give supporters, allies, and collaborators a chance to ask questions and clarify issues. As a letter to Helen states:

‘Another lady, who has now sent a card to her MP, said that she had refused to sign before because she was under the impression that this was an anti-male doctor campaign. She now fully understands the situation. ‘

The mass meeting in Usher Hall offered Helen and the other campaigners an opportunity to set the record straight as to the aims of their campaign, so that supporters could be reassured in their loyalty to the cause.

6. Oppose misrepresentation

Media coverage can be a significant ally for a campaign, yet not all press is indeed good press. When issues at the core of the campaign get repeatedly misrepresented, the campaign’s aims run the risk of becoming overshadowed. As Helen’s letters to newspaper show us, accurately and systematically opposing misrepresentation allows for the running of a fairer and more open campaign:

‘Mr. Nixon Browne, however, in his reply as reported made statements which could lead to serious misconceptions.’

With politeness and decision, Helen called out Mr. Nixon Browne’s ‘misconception’ as to the campaign and the way the press had reported on these, so as to project a more accurate image of the struggles to maintain the status of the hospitals.

Courtesy of Lothian Health Services Archive, Edinburgh University Library

7. Do not give up

Setbacks are a natural part of every campaign. Thinks don’t always run smoothly, and, sometimes, carefully planned action doesn’t lead to the expected results. Don’t lose heart, though.

‘It was decided at the meeting to pursue our cause until Justice is done. ‘

In the face of failure, it’s crucial to remember the reasons behind a campaign, and to know that, with the support of allies and a little extra time and effort, anything can be achieved.

Gender and Equality: First Semester Overview

From the Papers of Annie Hutton Numbers (Coll-649)

A little over three months ago, I began my internship at the Centre of Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh. My aim was that of uncovering hidden stories of marginalised groups, and I started my research by focussing primarily on narratives of women whose remarkable lives have gone, until now, unnoticed. As the first semester draws to a close, I thought it might be interesting to put together an overview of some of the marvellous finds I bumped into whilst searching the University collections — finds that, due to a lack of time or the need for more in-depth research, haven’t quite made yet it into fully fledged blog posts:

Annie Hutton Numbers – Numbers graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1918 with the degree of MA (hons) Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and then again in 1920 with the degrees of BSc in Mathematics and BSc in Chemistry. She was among the first women to obtain a degree from the Department of Chemistry, and went on to work for the University in the capacities of Assistant Lecturer and Demonstrator. While on the university staff, Numbers undertook research towards the award of a PhD in Chemistry, which she eventually gained in 1926 for the thesis The Influence of Substituents on the Optical Rotary Power of Compounds.

Numbers has a Wikipedia page, as well as her own entry in the Our History directory of the University of Edinburgh.

From the Papers of Annie Hutton Numbers, photographer unknown (Coll-649)
From the Papers of Annie Hutton Numbers (Coll-649)

Marjorie Rackstraw – After suffering from many health-related issues, in 1924 Rackstraw became Warden of Masson Hall at The University of Edinburgh, a position that she held until 1937. In her capacity as Warden, she served as an adviser to women students, counselling on matters regarding accommodation, education, and future careers. In 1937 Rackstraw moved from Edinburgh to London, where she took up many volunteering projects in favour of the elderly, war refugees, and homeless. Thirty years after leaving Masson Hall, Rackstraw contributed financially to the building of a new hall of residence.

Entries on Marjorie Rackstraw can be found in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and the Our History directory of the University of Edinburgh, and intern volunteer Elsie talks about the Papers of Marjorie Rackstraw (Coll-705) in her blog post on Carpe Librum.

From the Papers of Marjorie Rackstraw, photographer unknown (Coll-705)

Susan Binnie – From 1915, Binnie studied Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where she was one of the first female students allowed to participate in medical education alongside her male colleagues. Binnie graduated with the degrees on MB and ChB in the early 1920s, and went on to work at her brother’s newly set-up practice in Midcalder before taking a post as a pathologist at Bangour Hospital, West Lothian. Official records show Binnie leaving the profession after her marriage and the birth of her two children. New evidence, however, suggests that Binnie might have continued practicing medicine well after this, although more research is required to ascertain the facts.

Susan Binnie, photographer unknown, 1920s (Coll-1052)

Margaret Stuart Tyndall Bruce of Falkland – Daughter of Robert Hamilton Bruce, Bruce was a heiress and landowner who inherited Falkland Palace from her uncle John Hamilton Bruce in 1826. Despite most of her achievements both as a business woman and a charitable figure being attributed to her husband Onesiphorus Tyndall-Bruce, it was Mrs Bruce’s fortune that funded many initiatives crucial to the life of her community, including the construction of new buildings, land purchases, employment and charitable work.

A digital image of Bruce’s portrait, part of the University of Edinburgh Art Collection, can be found on the Art UK website, while more about the life of the Tyndall-Bruces is described in this leaflet for the Tyndall Bruce Monument.

Marjorie Jean Oswald Kennedy – Born in 1915 in Kilmarnock, Scotland, during the Second World War Kennedy begun serving with the Women Royal Naval Service before moving, in 1943, to Bletchely park, were she worked as a codebreaker for allied forces trying to decrypt encrypted messages transmitted through the German Enigma machine. Following the end of the war, Kennedy moved first to London, and, then, to Edinburgh, where in the 1980s she worked as a librarian at the University of Edinburgh. She engaged in much charitable work and was the inspiration behind the foundation of the Rock Trust, a charity aimed at helping homeless people.

Wikipedia hosts a page on Kennedy.

This is it for the first semester, but I look forward to many more fascinating discoveries in the new year.

From the Papers of Marjorie Rackstraw, photographer unknown (Coll-705)