Sue Innes - Writer and feminist campaigner

The death
of Sue Innes at the age of 56, following her bold and life-affirming
six-month struggle with an inoperable brain tumour, has robbed Scotland
of a true pioneering spirit of second-wave feminism and of a writer,
historian, journalist, researcher, teacher, activist and artist whose
working life was shaped by her unfailing passion for telling the true
story of women’s lives, and for campaigning for their freedom and
fulfilment.

Born in Weymouth in 1948, and raised in North Wales
and Peterhead according to loving but strict Christian principles, Sue
reached her late teens in the mid-1960s, and began to rebel in
spectacular style.

In the revolutionary year of 1968, she
abandoned her art school course in Aberdeen to travel to California,
Chicago and New York, working in a clinic in Haight Ashbury, San
Francisco, at the height of the hippy movement. She took part in anti-
Vietnam War peace campaigns and demonstrated at the famous Democratic
Convention in Chicago in 1968.

By the time she arrived at St
Andrews University in 1970, she was already a fully fledged
revolutionary feminist of the kind that Britain at that time had barely
seen: articulate, passionate, and beautiful enough to become the
subject of a famous series of dreamy posters by the St Andrews artist
Jurek Putter.

Within 18 months she was editor of the student
newspaper Aien, and had begun her sometimes stormy but hugely
successful lifelong partnership with John Clifford, now one of
Scotland’sleading playwrights, then a brilliant but bashful student in
the university’s Spanish and Arabic departments.

John and Sue
graduated in 1974, and in the series of remarkable homes they made for
themselves – moving on from Lathockar Farmhouse outside St Andrews to
Merlindene on the Fife coast, Roslin outside Edinburgh, and eventually
to Edinburgh itself – they began to live out some of their most firmly
held beliefs, in the possibility of communal living, in concern for the
environment, and, above all, in real equality between men and women.

Sue’s
gardens were legendary, as were the beautiful plans and drawings she
made in the process of creating them. In 1980 and 1985, John and Sue’s
two daughters, Rebecca and Katie, were born, both carrying the name of
Innes, and becoming the greatest joy and pride of Sue’s life.

Throughout
this period, Sue continued the career in journalism she had begun as a
student, working first for BBC Radio Scotland and as Scottish
correspondent of Social Work Today, then, from 1980, for The Scotsman,
where she was features writer and children’s editor on the newly
launched Saturday magazine.

In 1988 she moved on to Scotland on
Sunday, first as editor of its Living section, then as a regular
columnist covering a huge range of subjects related to women’s affairs.

In
1993 she started a part-time PhD in politics and social history, and
after parting company with Scotland On Sunday in 1995, she began to
produce what was to become an avalanche ofbooks, reports, articles,
essays and conference papers on women’s social and political history,
and their current situation, particularly in Scotland.

In 1995
Chatto & Windus published her best-known book Making It Work, about
change and challenge in women’s everyday lives in the 1990s.

In
the past decade she taught at the University of Glasgow, became a
research fellow at Edinburgh University and Glasgow Caledonian
University, and worked as an official reporter in the Scottish
Parliament. Only last summer she was appointed to share the job of
researcher and development worker for Engender, the Scottish women’s
research and information organisation.

At the time of her death
she was working with fervent commitment to co-edit a Biographical
Dictionary of Scottish Women, to be published later this year by
Edinburgh University Press.

Sue’s death came far too early, at a
time of rich personal and professional fulfilment, when her work was
winning increasing recognition nationally and internationally. But the
courage, gaiety, and sheer, sensual love of life with which she faced
down her final illness were the best memorial to her magnificent
pioneering spirit. And although the wonderful, gleeful laugh she always
directed at the pomposities of the world is silent now, those she loved
can be sure that that spirit lives on; not only in John, Rebecca, Katie
and her mother, Jean, who survive her, but in the hearts and minds of
an army of friends and readers whose lives she helped to reimagine and
transform.

Joyce MacMilla

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