Katharine Stewart-Murray, Duchess of Atholl
Katharine Stewart-Murray DBE
Duchess of Atholl
|MP for Kinross and West Perthshire;
Parliamentary Secretary to
the Board of Education
1923 – 28 November 1938
|Preceded by||James Gardiner|
|Succeeded by||William McNair Snadden|
6 November 1874|
|Died||21 October 1960
|Political party||Scottish Unionist Party|
|Spouse(s)||John Stewart-Murray, Marquess of Tullibardine (later Duke of Atholl)|
|Relations||Sir James Henry Ramsay, 10th Baronet (father);
John, 7th Duke of Atholl, KT (father-in-law)
|Residence||Blair Castle and London|
|Alma mater||Royal College of Music|
|Profession||Social reformer; parliamentarian|
|Religion||Christian (Church of Scotland)|
Katharine Marjory Stewart-Murray, Duchess of Atholl, DBE (6 November 1874 – 21 October 1960), née Ramsay, and known as the Marchioness of Tullibardine from 1899 to 1917, was a British noblewoman and Scottish Unionist Party politician.
Early life and education
Katharine Marjory Ramsay was born in Edinburgh on 6 November 1874, the daughter of Sir James Henry Ramsay, 10th Baronet. She was educated at Wimbledon High School and the Royal College of Music. During her school years she was known as Kitty Ramsay. On 20 July 1899, she married John Stewart-Murray, Marquess of Tullibardine, who succeeded his father as 8th Duke of Atholl in 1917, whereupon she became formally styled Duchess of Atholl.
Kitty Stewart-Murray was active in Scottish social service and local government and in 1912 served on the hugely influential "Highlands and Islands Medical Service Committee" (Dewar Report) that has been widely credited with creating the forerunner of the National Health Service; she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1918.
Kitty Stewart-Murray (alias Duchess of Atholl) was the Scottish Unionist Member of Parliament (MP) for Kinross and West Perthshire from 1923 to 1938, and served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education from 1924 to 1929, the first woman to serve in a UK Conservative and Unionist government.
She resigned the Conservative Whip first in 1935 over the India Bill and the "national-socialist tendency" of the government's domestic policy. Resuming the Whip, she resigned it again in 1937 over the Anglo-Italian Agreement. Finally she resigned her parliamentary seat in 1938 in opposition to Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement of Adolf Hitler. To permit her resignation (technically proscribed by law), she took Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds on 28 November 1938. She stood unsuccessfully in the subsequent by-election as an Independent candidate.
She argued that she actively opposed totalitarian regimes and practices. In 1931, she published The Conscription of a People - a protest against the abuse of rights in the Soviet Union. In 1936 she was involved in a long-running battle in the pages of various newspapers with Lady Houston, after the latter had become notorious for her outspoken support of rightist forces in Spain, as well as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Stewart-Murray had also taken issue with Houston calling on the king to become British dictator in imitation of the European fascist regimes in the pages of the Saturday Review. According to her autobiography Working Partnership (1958), it was at the prompting of Ellen Wilkinson that in April 1937 she, Eleanor Rathbone, and Wilkinson went to Spain to observe the effects of the Spanish Civil War. In Valencia, Barcelona and Madrid she saw the impact of Luftwaffe bombing on behalf of the Nationalists, visited prisoners of war held by the Republicans and considered the impact of the conflict on women and children in particular. Her book Searchlight on Spain resulted from this involvement, and her support for the Republican side in the conflict led to her being nicknamed by some the Red Duchess. However, Cowling cites her as saying that she supported the Republican government because "a government [Franco's] which used Moors could not be a national government". Her opposition to the British policy of non-intervention in Spain epitomised her attitudes and actions. She campaigned against the Soviet control of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary as the chairman of the League for European Freedom in Britain from 1945. In 1958 she published a biography of her life with her husband entitled Working Partnership.
Her Grace died in 1960, aged 85, in Edinburgh.
- Atholl, Katharine Marjory Stewart-Murray, Duchess of (editor) (1908), Military History of Perthshire (1660-1899) and (1899-1902), 2 Volumes, Perth: R A & J Hay
- Atholl, Katharine Marjory Stewart-Murray, Duchess of (1931), Conscription of a People
- Atholl, Katharine Marjory Stewart-Murray, Duchess of (1931), Women and Politics, Philip Allen
- Atholl, Katharine Marjory Stewart-Murray, Duchess of (1933) Main Facts of the Indian Problem.
- Atholl, Katharine Marjory Stewart-Murray, Duchess of (1938), Searchlight on Spain, Middlesex: Penguin 1st, 2nd & 3rd editions
- Atholl, Katharine Marjory Stewart-Murray, Duchess of (c. 1958), Working partnership: being the lives of John George, 8th Duke of Atholl, and of his wife, Katharine Marjory Ramsay, London: Arthur Baker Ltd
Records relating to Atholl can be found at:
- British Library Manuscript Section – correspondence with Lord Cecil, 1936–1944, Ref Add MS 51142 (web site)
- Churchill Archives, Cambridge University – correspondence with Sir E L Spears, Ref SPRS(on-line catalogue).
- British Library, Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections – correspondence and papers relating to Indian self-government, 1928-1935. Ref:MSS Eur 903 (web site)
- National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Collections, correspondence and papers regarding the Scottish National War Memorial, 1919–1958, Ref: Acc 4714. (web site).
- King's College London Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives. Ref: LIDDELL: 1/27 (on-line catalogue).
- Institute of Education Archives, Girls' Day School Trust collection 'Katherine, Duchess of Atholl', 1960. Ref: GDS/2/3/1 (on-line catalogue).
- Maitland, Frank (1937), Searchlight on the Duchess of Atholl, Edinburgh: Revolutionary Socialist Party
- Cowling, Maurice (1975), The Impact of Hitler - British Politics and Policy 1933-1940, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 403, ISBN 0-521-20582-4
- Stobaugh, Beverly Parkers (c. 1978), Women and Parliament, 1918-1970, Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press, c 1978.: Exposition Press, ISBN 0-682-49056-3
- Hetherington, Shelia (1989), Katharine Atholl 1874-1960, Aberdeen University Press
- MacLeod, Douglas (2005), Morningside Mata Haris: how MI6 deceived Scotland’s great and good, Edinburgh: Birlinn, ISBN 978-1-84341-021-8
- Richard Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right: British Enthusiasts for Nazi Germany, 1933-39, Oxford University Press, 1983, p. 235
- Masters, Brian (1988). The Dukes. London: Frederick Muller. ISBN 0-09-173700-1.
- London Gazette May 1942
- London Gazette, March 1952
- National Register of Archives, Murray, Katharine Marjory Stewart- (1874-1960) née Ramsay, Duchess of Atholl, Conservative MP GB/NNAF/P151487, The National Archives, retrieved 5 July 2007
- Photo at The National Portrait Gallery, London
- Documents on the duchess's role in the Spanish Civil War from "Trabajadores: The Spanish Civil War through the eyes of organised labour", a digitised collection of more than 13,000 pages of documents from the archives of the British Trades Union Congress held in the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Kinross & West Perthshire
1923 – 1938
William McNair Snadden
8th Duke of Atholl
|Honorary Colonel of the
May 1942-May 1952
Col. Robert Appleby Bartram