Deeds not Words



Deeds not Words - The story of what happened when Hebridean women got the vote.

This new play is currently in commission from London based Victoria Banks who has delivered Hebridean scripts before as dramaturg on Roghainn Nan Daoine (director, John Wright 2011) and then in 2013 she developed the script for We Have Won the Land with Muriel Ann Macleod (director).

In the General Election of 1918 women in the UK had the vote for the first time. Not all women, but most of those over 30. In the same year, the Western Isles returned their own MP for the first time. These two facts generate fascinating questions for a play to address:  What was the story of women's suffrage, so far away from the centres of the movement in London and Glasgow? What did it mean to the women of the Hebrides, from Stornoway to St.Kilda to be given a vote? Or in the case of the youngest and poorest, to be denied a vote? And how can we tell these stories from the periphery of the UK, of Scotland, of our history?

In 1918, at the end of the worst conflict the world had ever known, the stakes could not have been higher. What's more, in the same year, the Isle of Lewis was sold to a new owner. But the election of that year offered voters a choice between two politicians from the same party. The only alternative to the Liberals, the Land League candidate, lost his deposit. Turn out was low. What exactly was it women had fought to participate in? And was it religion, culture, language or apathy that held women voters back?

To create this play, Rural Nations Scotland CIC will research this particular community, to look at questions that plague us as a nation, about the value of the democratic process, of who we choose to represent us, and whether it matters. 

 In the play we will see the individual stories of a number of Hebridean women who have left a trace,  in the historical record of the early 20th century. Women who participated in the story of women's struggle to win the vote, or were amongst the first to use it. Through drama, humour, storytelling and music, the audience will share in the imaginative, compassionate act of reanimating these women from the traces they have left behind. 

Rural Nations will create an all women company specifically to deliver this work for touring in Scotland and internationally during 2017-2019




Deeds not Words  Partnerships:

The new writing commission for Deeds not Words has been funded by CNES and a local bequest from Janet Macleod(1935-2014).  Rural Nations is developing collaborative partnerships with the following organisations as the work is developed towards production:

  • The Women's Library in Glasgow to help market the show to women's networks in Scotland.
  • An Lanntair Arts Centre will be co-producing partners for the production of the play and the premiere performances will take place there.
  • Arts nan Eilean Rural Venues Network to present the work on tour in rural venues in the Outer Hebrides.
  • Teatermaskinen in Riddarhyttan Sweden have invited Rural Nations to present the work on tour in Sweden in 2018
  • Deeds not Words has been selected as the Hebrides show to be performed as part of the Reclaim the Future Project and will be reinvented and presented in Dunkerque, France in 2018.


Research on WOMEN AND POLITICS in the Hebrides.

We know that a Stornoway Women's Suffrage Society was set up in 1911, and had 25 initial members. Do you know who any of them were? Can you tell us more about this society? 

Do you know of any island women who were involved in or interested in women's suffrage before this or in other ways? For example, we know that there were women's suffrage meetings and campaigning going on in Inverness from 1907 onwards, with Mrs Pankhurst speaking there in 1909.

Can you tell us anything about women who were involved in any of the following groups: the Scottish Women's Liberal Federation (SWLF), the Scottish Women's Rural Institute (SWRI), the Scottish Co-operative Women's Guild?

Can you tell us anything about women involved in the Temperance movement in the islands, either through the Churches or the Scottish Temperance League or Scottish Christian Union?

Do you have any stories about women on the islands being registered to vote, and whether they cast their votes in 1918? Particularly on twhether any women form St Kildamade the journey to Leverburgh to cast their vote. We know 7 women on St Kilda were given the vote.




Can you tell us about women and girls who left the islands in the war to work in munitions factories?

Can you tell us anything about the WRENs in Stornoway during WW1? We know that there were WRENs (founded in 1917) in Stornoway from at least January 1918.

Can you tell us anything about women who became nurses during the war, or about the Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service?

We'd love to hear your family stories about what it was like for women in the islands with the men away during WW1.

The Playwright commission is funded by Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar and a bequest from Janet Macleod (who was a domestic science teacher in the Hebrides beween  1959 and 1987).

For further information please contact Muriel Ann Macleod at email: or call m:07789117740.


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