Council accused of ‘trivialising’ women in row over cultural hub name
12th March 2019
The new £13.2 million cultural and learning hub planned for the centre of Tunbridge Wells has been caught up in controversy before building work has even started.
Originally it was widely understood the centre would be named ‘Amelia Scott’ after the town’s famous social reformer and women’s suffrage campaigner.
However, Conservative Cllr Jane March told members at the last Full Council meeting a fortnight ago that the correct name was now just ‘Amelia’.
The news caused consternation among councillors, members of the public, and the media, who have all been referring to the combined library, museum, tourist information and gallery development in Mount Pleasant and Monson Road as the ‘Amelia Scott’.
This week Conservative Cllr Tracy Moore, the cabinet member for Economic Development and Communication, took to Twitter and said: “The decision to drop the surname was made by the ‘Project Board’—a small group of people but Councillor Jane March was one of them. The Amelia is in her portfolio.
“I am convinced we should use the full name but it’s not my call.”
And yesterday [Tuesday] the Women’s Equality Party in Tunbridge Wells branded the shortening of Amelia Scott’s name as both ‘trivialising’ her achievements and ‘infantilising’ women.
Spokesperson Dr Amanda Turner said: “If you are going to name it after Amelia Scott let’s use her full name and pay a proper tribute to her.”
She argued that there were other famous Amelia’s, including Amelia Earhart, so not everybody will connect the Council’s new cultural centre with the local suffrage heroine.
She continued: “Women in history and women in general tend to get trivialised and/or infantilised or written out of history altogether and using just Amelia Scott’s first name is a classic example of that.
“By way of example, we can’t think of a single local civic building or centre or cultural hub that’s named just after a man’s first name.”
Others are also unhappy at the name being shortened.
Lib Dem Cllr, Mark Ellis, said: “I think we should be keeping with the Amelia Scott as it provides a far stronger link to the past and an iconic figure and represents a better image for young women to aspire to.
“Does the word Scott really diminish the brand? In my view losing it does however diminish the memory of a leading social reformer.
“The council has also made a right mess of this. Nobody knew about the name until Councillor March made her statement. They should just stick with Amelia Scott.”
Cllr Jane March, has said the centre was never intended to be called the Amelia Scott.
“That has always been a working title,” she claimed.
“The decision to name the new centre Amelia was taken by the partnership board consisting of male and female elected members and key officers from both Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council.
“The Heritage Lottery Fund were made aware of the decision when it was made towards the end of 2018.”
She added: “She [Amelia Scott] is the inspiration behind the name; it acknowledges her achievements and her values, the things that she cared passionately about and her life’s works.”
Council documents as recent as November 2018, including the Communities Cabinet Advisory Board’s most recent update on the cultural centre were still referring to the building as ‘the Amelia Scott’.
The Amelia is set to open in 2021. The council-led project, with the backing of KCC, won £4million in funding from National Lottery, and as well as being a combined library, museum, tourist information and gallery, the Amelia will connect with the adult education centre as well as hosting Gateway services.
Who was Amelia Scott?
Amelia Scott, like many Victorian social reformers, came from a comfortable middle class background.
Born in Byfleet, Surrey, in 1860, she moved to Tunbridge Wells to live with her grandmother and youngest sister, Louisa, in 1862.
In 1894, Amelia Scott attended a conference of the National Union of Women Workers (NUWW) at Bristol, an event she later described as an ‘epiphany’.
From then on she became active in politics becoming first elected a Poor Law Guardian in 1901, regularly inspecting the workhouse at Pembury, and by 1905 had become a supporter of women’s suffrage.
In 1908 she was an official of Tunbridge Wells’ non-militant women’s suffrage society, and by 1919, Amelia Scott and her friend, Susan Power, became the first two women to be elected to what was then called the Borough Council of Royal Tunbridge Wells.
After her retirement from politics she remained active in the soup kitchens of depression-era Tunbridge Wells.
She died on March, 25, 1952.