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Papers of Dr Esther Breitenbach.

Identifier: Acc.13806/1-118

Scope and Contents

The collection reflects Dr Esther Breitenbach's feminist activism from the 1970s onwards. This includes papers reflecting her contributions to the Women’s Legal and Financial Independence Campaign, the Radical Scotland Women’s Group, and the European Forum of Socialist Feminists, as well as papers relating to the activities of the Women's Co-ordination Group, which advanced the demand for 50:50 gender representation. The collection includes assorted annotated pamphlets, conference papers, and printed reports on global feminist campaigns and strategies, which informed various aspects of her work on gender equality.

The papers also include collections of materials from her work on secondments to government, reflecting the main focus of her work in these posts. Publications and unpublished papers in this collection indicate the role of academic research in informing the campaign for the Scottish Parliament and developments in equal opportunities strategies. The collection also includes unpublished papers reflecting on the possibilities and limitations of the role of research advice in government.

The archive also includes papers relevant to the founding of the Scottish feminist organisation Engender (from 1991-2006), and to Dr Breitenbach’s work as co-editor of the Engender ‘Gender Audit’.


  • Creation: 1966-2014.


Conditions Governing Access

Normal access conditions apply.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal reproduction conditions apply, subject to any copyright restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

Dr Esther Breitenbach graduated in Philosophy and Political Science from Dundee University in 1974, and subsequently worked in adult and community education, before commencing a career in academic research and teaching in 1991. Dr Breitenbach was seconded from the Department of Social Policy, University of Edinburgh, to the Scottish Office (later Scottish Executive) as Women's Issues Research Consultant, from 1998 to early 2001, and to the Women and Equality Unit in the Cabinet Office (later in the Department of Trade and Industry), as a Senior Research Officer, from early 2001 to early 2003. She was Visiting Professor at the Institute of Governance, Public Policy and Social Research, Queen’s University Belfast, from 2003 to 2005. In 2005 she obtained a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, and subsequently held positions as Postdoctoral Fellow, Teaching Associate, and Research Fellow in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology. Since 2011, she has been Honorary Fellow in the School.

She was a member of a range of groups in the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1970s and 1980s, including as a co-founder and collective member of the ‘Scottish Women’s Liberation Journal’ and ‘MSprint’. She later participated in the 1990s campaign for a Scottish Parliament and for better representation of women in Scottish political and public life. Much of her work relating to the women's movement in Scotland and women's participation in the campaign for a Scottish parliament was carried out in collaboration with Alice Brown and Fiona Mackay.

She has had a long-standing involvement with Women's History Scotland, of which she was a founder member, and was a contributor to 'The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Scotland, 1867-1928', the online learning resource launched in 2018 to commemorate the centenary of women's partial enfranchisement. She was also a participant in the Scottish Magazines Network project at Stirling University in 2021.


12 Boxes ; 37 x 144 x 29 cm.

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented, 2017, by Esther Breitenbach, Edinburgh.


Duplicates and unannotated, unpublished drafts of conference papers by third parties were weeded.

Related Materials

Acc.12147: Papers and correspondence of Engender.

Acc.14055: Papers of Joan Gibson relating to her involvement with Engender and other women's organisations.

Scottish Women's Liberation Journal (1977-1978), PER.

MSprint (1978-1981), NH.807 PER.

Papers relating to the Scottish Women’s Liberation Movement Workshop, University of Edinburgh (9 May 2009), organised jointly by Esther Breitenbach and Rachel Cohen, are held at the University of Dundee Library (GB254/Acc.2010/400). Film recordings of the event on DVD are held at the School of Scottish Studies (GB237/VD174). Further papers relating to this workshop series are held at the Women's Library, London (GB106/11TWL/K/01).


Breitenbach, Esther and Mackay, Fiona (eds.). 'Women and Contemporary Scottish Politics' (Edinburgh: Polygon at Edinburgh University Press, 2001).

Breitenbach, Esther and Mackay Fiona. 'Feminist Politics in Scotland from the 1970s to 2000s: engaging with the changing state', in Esther Breitenbach and Pat Thane (eds). 'Women and Citizenship in Britain and Irelands in the Twentieth Century: What Difference did the Vote Make?' (London: Continuum, 2010), pp. 153-169.

Browne, Sarah. 'The Women's Liberation Movement in Scotland' (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014).

Henderson, Shirley, and Mackay, Alison (eds). 'Grit and Diamonds: Women in Scotland Making History 1980-1990' (Edinburgh: Stramullion, 1990).
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division Repository

Archives and Manuscript Division
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EJ
0131 623 3700