Isabella was born in 1878 in Arbroath, the daughter of Rev. Richard and Ann. She went to the local school and, at age fourteen she became a pupil teacher where she taught for four years. So she got some experience before she went to the Church of Scotland Training College in Edinburgh. After that she taught in Arbroath, Fife and Dundee. In 1908 the campaign for women to get the vote was really taking off. Carrie was interested so she went to a meeting where Winston Churchill was speaking just to see. But there were of course, suffragettes, heckling Churchill. Carrie was shocked by the rough handling they were given. and when she rose to ask a question the Stewards thought she was one of them; they grabbed her, ejected her from the room and threw her down the stairs into the arms of a policeman. The newspaper picked up on this story and remarks by the policeman later that “she was the gentlest suffragette he had ever come across. To which Isabella replied: “I did not go to the meeting as a suffragettes but I am one now”.

Members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) also assumed she was one of them, and she was invited to their rooms, where she became a member. But she was afraid to have this publicly know: it might mean she lost her recently acquired job at Wallacetown Primary – or damage her reputation in the church. So she took on the job of hosting suffrage speakers who came to Dundee. She now lived alone in Baldovan Terrace, a quiet unobtrusive woman leading an orderly life  – the perfect person for the job. Even so, it was brave. A WSPU member would tell when someone was coming and she would get the bedroom ready for them, put the gas fire on, leave food if necessary, the lights on and the door unlocked. Then she would go to bed, because they usually arrived very late. So she seldom saw them or knew their names. 

One day the leader called to say that Mrs Pankhurst was to be her guest: very exciting and very hush-hush. Also very scary because the police were closely after Mrs Pankhurst all the time. In the event Mrs P was arrested before she arrived in Dundee. Isabella confessed that at first she was relieved, but she was sorry she had not met her. She never told anyone what she was doing until decades later, being frightened that she could still be imprisoned for her actions.

Isabella had never had good health, so when she was sixty she retired, and decided to take a trip round the world. Unfortunately she got no further than New York before WWII broke out. Surprisingly, she lived until she was 103. She died on 29 November in a nursing home in Broughty Ferry.