She was born into a life of immense wealth and privilege, but reveled in issues of which her peers were “ignorant or afraid”.
Scottish novelist and playwright Naomi Mitchison wrote over 80 books and her work is hailed for being ahead of its time, exploring themes of self-determination and equality between gender, race and class.
Now a new exhibition celebrating the life and work of the Edinburgh-born social justice campaigner, who died in 1999 aged 101, is due to open in Glasgow in the autumn.
His London home was a haven for creatives and saw the company of writers such as Aldous Huxley, WH Auden, EM Forster and Wyndham Lewis.
However, she spent the second half of her life in Carradale, Kintyre, where she was heavily involved in local life and the politics of the small fishing communities of the Clyde.
She had an amazing life
The exhibition is the culmination of free community arts workshops that took place in Carradale, Tarbet and Glasgow.
All three locations mark the traditional fishing route along the Clyde to The Briggait, which once served as Scotland’s largest fish market and is now operated by Wasps as a major arts centre.
The workshops were led by award-winning artist Rhona Taylor – herself a tenant of Wasps – and the Clyde Fisherman’s Trust as part of Scotland’s Stories Year.
In each location, the artist worked with local adults and children to explore and respond to the different elements and themes of Naomi Mitchison’s work and discuss the relationship between rural and urban areas of the Clyde.
“Naomi Mitchison was not only a prolific writer, but she was a lifelong campaigner and also did an amazing job of bringing contemporary artwork to schools in Argyll,” said the artist.
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“She thought art shouldn’t be confined to big cities, which I couldn’t agree with.
“She’s had an amazing life and lived a lot of it in Carradale, so it’s been great and very fitting to work with people from her local communities on this project.”
Educated at the Dragon School in London, where she was the only daughter, she married Gilbert Richard (Dick) Mitchison in 1916 as he returned home briefly after fighting in Flanders.
During the interwar period she had seven children – five surviving beyond infancy – and wrote 25 books.
She was a practical feminist and, while writing, helped run the North Kensington Women’s Welfare Centre, a contraception clinic. She also ran – unsuccessfully – as a union adviser.
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His 1935 book We Have Been Warned examined feminism, communism and socialism, and he was known for his unyielding look at free love, sex, rape and the use of abortion instead of a appropriate contraception.
The book was initially rejected and eventually released in a heavily censored form.
Naomi’s socialist leanings grew out of the brutality of war, the many deaths of her friends, and the fact that she and her company were truly privileged.
She traveled to Russia with her husband in 1932 to experience Marxism first-hand – where she found women as bound by traditional expectations as they were in Britain.
In 1937 the Mitchisons moved to the Carradale Estate where she became involved in all aspects of running the estate, including driving tractors, hauling nets and attending the Highland Panel where she was regularly frustrated with the dismissal of her “female voice”.
She has written extensively about her experience living and working in a small fishing community.
The exhibition opens on Sunday, September 18 and will feature a collective sculptural installation incorporating creative contributions from community groups.
Marie Christie, Head of Development at VisitScotland, said: “We are delighted to support the Clyde Fisherman’s Trust project through the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund.
“Events play an important role in our communities as they support livelihoods and help celebrate and promote our unique places, spaces and stories.”