Chrystal Macmillan

The University's first female science graduate, but also a pioneering feminist and pacifist.

[scald=62625:sdl_editor_representation {"alt":"Chrystal Macmillan at the Hague 1915","caption":"Chrystal Macmillan at the Hague 1915"}]

Chrystal Macmillan was born in Edinburgh in 1872 as the only daughter of nine children, she was one of the first women to be admitted to a university course in Scotland. Chrystal then went on to achieve another first, as she became the first woman to graduate from Edinburgh in science, which she did with first class honours in mathematics and natural philosophy.

As well as her academic achievements, Chrystal was actively involved in student politics. She regularly chaired the Women’s Representative Committee, lobbied the Scottish University authorities on the subject of gender parity for scholarships and bursaries, and was Vice President of the Women's Debating Society.

In the summer of 1896 she went to Berlin for further university study, then returned to Edinburgh and passed an examination in Greek language to enter the Faculty of Arts in October 1896

When female graduates were denied the right to vote on the MPs elected to represent the University, history was made yet again as Chrystal became the first woman to plead a case before the House of Lords. Although the case was rejected, the publicity generated turned the matter into an international issue.

After the war MacMillan felt that the most effective way to campaign for the causes she believed was to become a lawyer. She was called to the bar in 1924 and became, what would now be termed, a human rights lawyer; thus helping to establish a professional field that now represents and protects the vulnerable and disenfranchised.


Related Articles: