Ethel has a double claim to fame – as the finest Dundee woman artist of her time and as, if not the leader, then certainly the ‘most turbulent’ of Dundee’s suffragettes!
Younger sister of Alice [footstep six], they were daughters of an army surgeon, brought up in various parts of the Empire.
Ethel studied art in Paris under Mucha and at Whistler’s studio. She exhibited in prestigious galleries. She would occasionally return to Dundee where she shared a studio with a Miss Oliphant. Her first paintings exhibited at Dundee Graphic Arts Society in 1901 were described as ‘gems of the collection’.
A couple of years later, when her parents and brothers arrived in Dundee, she went home to act as housekeeper, but she kept her portrait business going at her studio in King Street Arcade, long vanished under the ring road.
In 1911 Ethel joined the suffragettes and became their most boisterous member, smashing windows, attempting arson and refusing to bow to male authority. In the ’20s, in Paris, she founded and edited one of the best-regarded art journals of the time publishing work by Joyce, Pound and Hemingway.
Her plaque is as close as we could get to the site of the King Street Arcade – on the building at the corner of King Street and St Roque’s Lane, near the underpass.
Sketch of Ethel Moorhead with her dog, Pine Tree. Copyright Dundee Local Studies Library
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