The Forgotten Accomplished Daughters of John Beveridge: Lois and Heather Beveridge, by Claire Taylor

Krakow 1912

As seen in Esperanto publications, attendance sheets, and photographs like that of the Eighth World Esperanto Congress in Krakow in 1912 pictured above, women were visibly prominent in local and international Esperanto events. For the Seventh Esperanto World Congress that took place in Antwerp in 1911, sixty-five out of the one-hundred-six Scottish attendees were women. While we do not have access to the photograph that the British Esperantist records as being taken for the Antwerp Congress or Dundee Congress in 1911, we can gather the lives of Scottish Esperantists from local archives, newspapers, census records, and postcards. While John Beveridge is a well-known historical actor for a twentieth-century Scottish Esperantist, his accomplished daughters Lois and Heather receive no such recognition. One a teacher and the other a chemist, Lois and Heather were active Esperantists locally and internationally who were frequently recorded in local Scottish newspapers for their various Esperanto endeavors.

Two of John Beveridge and Alice Henderson’s five children, Lois and Heather were both born in Stow, Midlothian. Heather was born on 27 December 1886, while Lois was born around 1889 according to the enumerator sheets from the 1911 Census of Scotland where Lois is recorded as twenty-two years old. Lois lived with her father, her mother, and their servant Maria Seriatwife from Holland in a ten-room house at 8 Magdalen Park Road, Dundee in 1911.

With the Sixth Scottish Esperanto Congress in Dundee 16-19 June 1911, Dundee Esperantists like Lois were vital to the organization and success of local Esperanto events. Still, Lois’ interest in Esperanto began much before this Congress brought worldly Esperantists to Dundee. At eighteen years old, attendance sheets highlight that Lois attended the Fourth Esperanto World Congress of 1908 held in Dresden unaccompanied by her father. Lois’s trip to Dresden was followed by a presentation back in Scotland at the Working Boys and Girls Hall on Tay Street in Perth. Listed in the program of the Perth Esperanto Group from 23 December 1908, Lois presented “Parolado: ‘miaj spertoj ce Dresdeno.’” Besides giving talks about her experiences, Lois was also an Esperanto teacher, and the influence of her teaching is seen in local newspapers such as the Dundee Courier in a clipping from Friday 11 October 1907 under the subtitle ‘Local Esperanto Successes.’ It reads, “Mr Alexander Pride, president, and Miss Lois Beveridge, a member of the Dundee Esperanto Club, have been successful in gaining the advanced diploma of proficiency in the new language. This diploma (Atesto pro Rapableco) is granted by the BEA and entitles the holder to become a recognized teacher of Esperanto and to act as an examiner for the BEA diplomas in the district. With Esperantists in Dundee qualified to act as examiners, it is probable that the number of candidates for the diploma will be much larger in the future.” The dating of this article would have made Lois eighteen years old at the time of gaining the advanced diploma, and it appears that right after this qualification Lois began forming teaching groups. According to the “la Provinjo” section of the 1911 edition of The British Esperantist, a third annual social celebration occurred on 9 February 1911 for the Perth group in which Lois was acknowledged for being the group’s first teacher. While Lois’ profession is left blank in the 1911 Census, the attendance list for the Seventh Esperanto World Congress in Antwerp in 1911 records Lois as attending the conference independently again, but this time with the title “instruistino,” or “teacher” next to her name. Lois’ travel abroad together with her local dedication to teaching Esperanto in Scotland highlights Lois as anything but a strictly Dundee-based Esperantist. Rather, she was invested in the expansion and future of Esperanto groups within Fife and Scotland as a whole.

Lois’ sister Heather Beveridge, on the other hand, was a scientist. Research about Heather’s life and trajectory as a chemist has been undertaken by Marelene Rayner-Canham and Geoffrey Rayner-Canham in Pioneering British Women Chemists: Their Lives and Contributions. Their biographical research found that Heather attended Harris Academy in Dundee as a child, and at sixteen years old she entered University College in Dundee. After graduating with a B.Sc from St Andrews she was appointed a Carnegie Research Scholar at Dundee working with James Walker. Heather went with Walker to the University of Edinburgh to continue her work with him.

Despite Heather being a chemist, she clearly saw value in Esperanto within the sciences. During her time as a Carnegie Research Scholar, she utilized some weeks of studying Esperanto to translate an academic article she wrote in collaboration with Professor Walker. According to the Thursday 16 January 1908 edition of the Dundee Courier, she hoped that this Esperanto translation would allow scientists from across the globe to understand her work that was published in the International Science Review. This specific article can be traced in the Transactions section of Volume XCI of the Journal of the Chemical Society from 1907 with the title “para Toluidine Monohydrate. By James Walker and Heather Henderson Beveridge (Carnegie Research Scholar).” She published several other scholarly papers with Walker including “Hydrolysis of Salts of Amphoteric Electrolytes…. Issued separately October 14, 1909” which was recorded in the Proceedings of The Royal Society of Edinburgh Volume XXIX November 1908 to July 1909. Heather was not the only woman scientist and Esperantist, rather she fits into a larger pattern of scientists around the world employing Esperanto in relation to their academic study. Around the same time in Edinburgh, Isabella Mears, one of the first women to gain the L.K.Q.C.P.I doctor qualification from the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, appeared in the British Esperantist for her participation in local Esperanto Clubs and the Dundee Scottish Conference. She wrote about her scientific discoveries as a doctor in Esperanto like Heather, including about the open-air tuberculosis treatment center she opened in 1899 with her husband called Woodburn Sanatorium in Edinburgh. The German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald and the Polish bacteriologist Odo Bujwid were also avid Esperantists in addition to their work in chemistry.

Lois continued her administrative contributions to Esperanto clubs and events in Scotland until the First World War. She is listed as the only woman under the Executives of the Federation for the Congress of Scottish Esperantists in Kilmarnock held from the 5th to the 8th of June 1914 as the first of four Vice Presidents on the invitation sheet. Lois’s organizational accomplishments received internal recognition from Scottish Esperanto Clubs and external governmental recognition from the Lord Provost of the city of Dundee with cordial invitations to various Esperanto events in 1911 and 1912.

Heather participated in local Scottish Esperanto Congresses like Lois while she was a chemist. In the program for the Social Kunveno at the Lamb’s Hotel in Dundee on 15 April 1908, Lois and Heather were both invited, but Heather Beveridge is recorded under “Kanto: La Espero” in part one of the social, and “Kanto: Seranado” in part two. The academic’s willingness to sing in Esperanto may come as a pleasant surprise, but additionally demonstrates one of the many cases seen in my research of women Esperantists being the backbone of the creative entertainment within Esperanto socials and clubs across Scotland. Indeed, Esperanto was a visible and thriving phenomenon in pre-World War I Scotland as seen in the study of fascinating women Esperantists like Lois and Heather.

Invitation card addressed to Lois Beveridge from the Dundee Esperanto Club, 1911

Written by Claire Taylor

Claire is a third-year undergraduate English and Modern History student who researched Women Esperantists in 1911 Scotland and the Midlands over the summer as part of the 2021 Laidlaw Scholarship.

Under the supervision of Dr Bernhard Struck, her project combined transnational history and gender history to explore an untouched part of the history of Esperanto in Britain. Some of her findings were presented at the “Language Practices in Transnational Contexts” held September 6-8 at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin.

You can find Claire on LinkedIn

1 thought on “The Forgotten Accomplished Daughters of John Beveridge: Lois and Heather Beveridge, by Claire Taylor”

  1. Fascinating stuff Claire! Women’s voices are often overlooked in Esperanto and this represents a wider question the movement has wrestled with. The “Atesto pro Rapableco“ is, I suspect, “kapableco” (capability). The R and K are probably easily confused in flowery handwriting.

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