Heart of the action - Alison Rutherford 1713-1794
Alison Rutherford, whose parties were the original social network of Edinburgh, -brought great minds together through food, dance and debate.
The men of the Scottish Enlightenment were able to achieve great things because women made it possible. Achievements took place against a domestic and social backdrop and the men of genius were successful because their wives, mothers and friends helped them to “network”, by entertaining.
Despite being widowed at 40 and on reduced means, Alison Rutherford (Mrs Cockburn) was an intelligent and creative woman, who was also a sparkling and witty hostess, bringing the leading men of Edinburgh together for food and drink, entertainment and dancing, debate and gossip. Alison knew how to get a party started, and loved being at the heart of the action.
Alison was also a poet and wrote one of the versions of The Flowers of the Forest.
Why was she important?
- Intelligent, talented, friendly and funny, she had great social skills
- Brought people together to debate big ideas and share their discoveries and theories
- She was a lynchpin of the Scottish Enlightenment
Things to do:
Think and find out
How did Alison make friends and create an 18th century social network?
What to eat: Many of the foods and dining customs we know today were developed in the Georgian era
Have a go
Do some dancing – some popular 18th century dances are quite similar to traditional Scottish country dances, just a bit slower!
Plan a visit to the old town of Edinburgh; this will give you some idea of what Alison’s Edinburgh was like. Gladstone’s Land and the City of Edinburgh Museum in Huntly House will give you an idea of what Alison’s rooms may have been like.
Curriculum links: Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing, Language, Mathematics, Religious and Moral Education, Sciences, Social Studies, Technologies