School of Social and Political Science

Chrystal Macmillan


Chrystal Macmillan was a remarkable graduate of the University of Edinburgh. She was 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. These exhibition panels are frequently displayed in the School foyer. 

Chrystal Macmillan exhibition

For more information on Chrystal's life and work, we recommend reading the work of Helen Kay, independent scholar.

Miss Chrystal Macmillan 1872-1937: Edinburgh Woman and Global Citizen


The Chrystal Macmillan PhD Studentship

The School is delighted to offer the Chrystal Macmillan PhD Studentship to new PhD students pursuing a PhD topic in one of the following fields: social justice, gender and equality, human rights, peace and conflict resolution. Applications can be made via our graduate school.

Apply now