Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair

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Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon by W.J. Byrne & Co, 1899.
Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair by William James Topley c. 1900

Ishbel Maria Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair, GBE (née Marjoribanks; 15 March 1857 – 18 April 1939) was a Scottish author, philanthropist and an advocate of woman's interests.


Born Ishbel (Gaelic for Isabel)[1] Maria Marjoribanks she was the third daughter of the 1st Baron Tweedmouth and Isabella Weir-Hogg (daughter of Sir James Weir Hogg[1]).

On 7 November 1877 she married the Liberal politician the 7th Earl of Aberdeen (later the 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair), in St. George's Church, St. George Street, Hanover Square, London. The couple had four surviving children: George (1879), Marjorie (1880), Dudley (1883), and Archibald (1884).

Life and work[edit]

Lady Aberdeen was the first sponsor of the Women's Art Association of Canada, founded in 1892.[2] She was president of the International Council of Women for thirty-six years (1893–1936) and the National Council of Women of Canada for six years (1893–1899).[3] When her husband was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, she took up the fight against tuberculosis, starting the Woman's National Health Association. In 1897, when her husband was Governor General of Canada, she founded the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada and became the first President of the organisation. At this time she also established the May Court Club, the first women's only service club in North America. In addition, she founded the Onward and Upward Association for girls employed in Aberdeenshire farms. She and her husband built a hall at Haddo House for musical and operatic performances.[citation needed]

In 1931, Lady Aberdeen presented to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland a petition of 336 women calling for women to be ordained to the ministry, diaconate and eldership of the Kirk. This resulted in a special commission, which recommended only that women should be ordained to the diaconate. It was to be many years until the full craves of the Aberdeen petition were granted by the Assembly of 1966.[citation needed]

She wrote two books, The Musings of a Scottish Granny, We Twa (published 1925), and More Cracks with We Twa (published 1929). She thought highly of Sir John Thompson, Canadian Prime Minister (from 1892–1894), and wrote about him in her journal. Her book, The Canadian Journal of Lady Aberdeen, 1893-1898, was edited by John Saywell and published by the Champlain Society in 1960.[4]

In Toronto, Canada, Aberdeen Avenue is a historically designated street in Cabbagetown named for Lord Aberdeen, Governor General of Canada 1893-1898, and Lady Aberdeen, an aristocrat-democrat with a strong social conscience who made lasting contributions to Canadian society. In her vice-regal duties at Ottawa's Government House, invitations were eagerly sought to state dinners where she became famous for her tableaux, dramatizing incidents in Canadian history, conscripting household staff, guests and family members to play roles. She and Lord Aberdeen, in honour of the Queen's Jubilee in 1897, spent $4,000 of their own money to stage a huge pageant in Toronto celebrating Canada's progress in industry, arts, sciences and sports.[citation needed]

Lady Aberdeen is credited with introducing the Golden Retriever to Canada and her father, Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth, a Scottish aristocrat, is best known as the originator of the breed.[5] Lady Aberdeen created the Onward and Upward Association to help develop, socialize, and educate her staff, as well as encourage prostitutes to relinquish the street. To the horror of her parents, she assisted William Ewart Gladstone in his Strand Rescue Mission, where he sought out London prostitutes and tried to rescue and rehabilitate them.[1]


Lady Aberdeen was the first woman to receive an honorary degree in Canada.[6] She is shown here in Queen's University robes, photographed by William James Topley.

In 1894, she received the Freedom of Limerick; she received the Freedom of Edinburgh in 1928 and was invested as a Dame Grand Cross in the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 1931.[6]

The Lady Aberdeen Bridge, which is the first bridge upstream to cross the Gatineau river, in Gatineau, was named in her honour. After falling through the ice at the confluence of the Gatineau and Ottawa Rivers, Lady Aberdeen was rescued by Gatineau locals. Out of gratitude she funded the construction of a church near the site of the accident and the Lady Aberdeen Bridge.[7]

Aberdeen Avenue in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, was named after Lord and Lady Aberdeen who lived on Bay Street South between 1890-1898. They presided over the opening of the Hamilton Public Library on 16 September 1890.[8]

Aberdeen Street in Kingston, Ontario is named for the couple; it is located near the Queen's University campus. Her popularity in Canada led to her being given 18 elaborate tea sets by the Canadian government. This gift was nothing to do with her title or marriage and was purely because of her own work and impact. She was the first woman to be made an honorary member of the British Medical Association.[1]

The Ontario Heritage Trust erected a plaque for Lady Aberdeen 1857-1939 on the grounds of Rideau Hall, 1 Sussex Drive, Ottawa. "Widely respected for her organizational skills and strong commitment to public service, Lady Aberdeen served as president of the International Council of Women from 1893 to 1939. During the Earl of Aberdeen's term as governor-general, she helped to form the National Council of Women of Canada." [9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Marjoribanks, Roger. "Ishbel Marjoribanks", The Marjoribanks Journal Number 4, August 1996; accessed 22 May 2010.
  2. ^ "Women's Art Association of Canada". Canadian Museum of History. Retrieved 2014-07-05. 
  3. ^ "Aberdeen, Lady (Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks) National Historic Person". Parks Canada. 15 March 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  4. ^ The Man From Halifax: Sir John Thompson, Prime Minister, by Peter Busby Waite, Toronto 1985, University of Toronto Press, p. 527.
  5. ^ Baldwin, Lorna (7 August 2013) Golden Retrievers Go ‘Home’ for Gathering in Scottish Highlands Public Broadcasting System, Newshour, Retrieved 4 July 2014
  6. ^ a b (2013) Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon Undiscovered Scotland, Retrieved 10 April 2013
  7. ^ "Pont Lady-Aberdeen". Commission de toponymie du Québec (in French). Government of Quebec. Retrieved 19 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Houghton, Margaret (2002). Hamilton Street Names: An Illustrated Guide. James Lorimer & Co. Ltd. ISBN 1-55028-773-7. 
  9. ^ Ontario Heritage Trust plaque[dead link]


  • G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910–1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I, p. 18.
  • Ibid, volume XIII, page 209.
  • Peter W. Hammond, editor, The Complete Peerage or a History of the House of Lords and All its Members From the Earliest Times, Volume XIV: Addenda & Corrigenda (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1998), p. 5.
  • Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd., 1999), volume 1, p. 11.

External links[edit]