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School of Social and Political Science: About the school


Chrystal Macmillan

The School of Social and Political Science is housed in the Chrystal Macmillan building in George Square, Edinburgh. Breaking the long tradition of naming buildings in George Square after eminent 18th century men, staff and PhD students campaigned to name the newly refurbished building in 2008 after Chrystal Macmillan. Complementing other George Square buildings named after foundational figures for the University and the Scottish enlightment, the Chrystal Macmillan building also reflects society and the social values of the University today.

Life and Work

Chrystal Macmillan was a remarkable graduate of the University of Edinburgh. She was in many senses a pioneer as the first ever woman to graduate in science from the University of Edinburgh in 1896. She went on to become a lawyer, and in 1908 made history again when she became the first woman to plead before the House of Lords, presenting her case that female university graduates should be given the right to vote. Chrystal was a prominent voice in the women's rights movement throughout her life, campaigning on a range of issues. She was a close associate of Millicent Fawcett, and was secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance between 1913 and 1920.

She was one of the organisers of the International Congress of Women in The Hague in 1915, and was a member of the delegation from that Congress to present proposals to heads of neutral states for halting World War I. Following the Armistice, she was a delegate at the Paris Peace Conference, which was held in 1919. She was called to the English Bar in 1924 - again as one of the first group of women admitted - and developed a distinctive career as what we would now call a human rights lawyer.


The School has created an exhibition on the life and work of Chrystal Macmillan. Browse our exhibition panels, which are frequently displayed in the School's foyer. 

For more on Chrystal's life and work, see Miss Chrystal Macmillan 1872-1937: Edinburgh Woman and Global Citizen, by Helen Kay, independent scholar.

Chrystal Macmillan