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Material relating to Helen Millar Lowe

Identifier: Coll-1247

Scope and Contents

The material is composed mainly of business letters but there are some private letters too, to cousins, as well as letters and class certificates relating to earlier studies and work.

The business and private letters are dated from 7 November 1928 to 12 December 1930. They include various communications with, for example, stockbrokers relating to purchase and sale of shares (including Imperial Tobacco, Arizona Copper, Vipond Consolidated Mines, B'wana M'Kuba, Dunlop Rubber, Tigon Mining, Armstrong Whitworths, Reckitts, Anglo-Newfoundland Development Co., United Molasses, Inveresk Paper Co., and Westminster Bank) and correspondence such as these:

  1. a letter dated 9 November 1928, relating to the lease of office premises in Queen Street, Edinburgh
  2. a note from Post Office Telephones, dated 15 November 1928, indicating that the hire of 'a telephone circuit' had been accepted.
  3. a letter to Victoria Cabinet Works, Kirkcaldy, dated 21 November 1928, ordering a leather top desk for Pounds Sterling 20, for the office in Queen Street, Edinburgh
  4. a letter to Cousion Robert, dated 17 Decemember 1928 suggesting to him that she needs to become known for her business to work.
  5. a letter to Alfred H. Roberts, dated 18 December 1928 in which she states that she has 'now started business on my own account' and had left her 'old office' at the end of October 1928.
  6. a letter to Mrs Sharp, dated 7 January 1929 in which she indicates that she worked with Chiene and Tait in Edinburgh for nine years, going to them first in 1919, and how after an Act was passed that allowed women to qualify as Chartered Accountants she indentured with Chiene and Tait, went straight through the examinations and was admitted as a Chartered accountant in 1926. She was the third woman in Edinburgh to qualify.
  7. a letter to Mrs Cunninghame, dated 22 January 1929, in which Lowe indicates that she has 'never typed at all until about two months ago' and goes on to say that she has 'already acquired one or two bits of income tax work' and got herself 'appointed Edinburgh Agent of the Woolwich Equitable Building Society'.
  8. a letter from R. K. Sanderson, Edinburgh, dated 18 March 1929, anxious to begin the study of book-keeping under Lowe, having heard that she is a teacher of book-keeping.
  9. a letter from the Electricity Dept., Dewar Place, Edinburgh, dated 23 October 1930, concerning a meter problem whereby consumption for Lowe's office had been charged to another occupant of the Queen Street offices.
  10. a letter from Jas. F. Johnston, Joiner, Cabinetmaker and Upholsterer, Smith's Place, Leith Walk, dated 3 November 1930, about an enquiry for a glass screen for the office window with lettering: Woolwich Equitable Building Society 'in gold with black outline'.
  11. a letter to Norman M. Hunter, dated 5 November 1930 indicating that two rooms have been taken in Charlotte Square because 'I find that one room is no longer sufficient for my business'.

Other earlier letters, and the class certificates, include:

  1. letter from the Principal, Cusack's College, Finsbury Square, London, dated 24 March 1919, informing that 'I regret to inform you that he [the Secretary of the London Association of Accountants] says the Council had to refuse Intermediate letters to about 20 candidates who had little or no practical experience of Accountancy work. If you had 4 or 5 years' experience of Accountancy or kindred work, I believe you would get your letters ...'.
  2. letter from the Hon. Secretary, Scottish Branch, The London Association of Accountants, dated 26 May 1919, with dates and times of the Association's Final Examination to take place in June at Goold Hall, St. Andrews Square, Edinburgh.
  3. letter from the Secretary, The London Association of Accountants, Temple Chambers, Temple Avenue, London, dated 29 July 1919, informing that 'you have gained such excellent marks in the June examination in the subjects taken, that in the view of the regrettable circumstances of the Examination, the Council are preapred to grant a pass'.
  4. certificate of character from Savings Bank Department, General Post Office, signed by the Deputy Superintendent, dated 1 September 1919, indicating Lowe's position as 'Clerk' from 21 September 1914 to 28 April 1919 when 'she resigned her appointment for private reasons' and stating that during the time she was in service 'her conduct and performance of duty were thoroughly satisfactory'.
  5. letter from Mabbot, Berwickshire High School, Duns, dated 13 September 1926, offering congratulations on hearing of successful passing of Final CA exam, saying 'Accept my hearty congratulations on your splendid and most unusual success', with envelope addressed to Miss E. Lowe CA, Blackhall (Edinburgh)
  6. membership card of the London Association of Accountants, Limited, with associate membership no: 2918, and for year 1920. Membership fee was £1 / 1 shilling.
  7. membership card of the London Association of Accountants, Limited, with associate membership no: 2918, and for year 1921. Membership fee was £1 / 11 shillings / 6 pence.
  8. First Class Certificate, offered by Edinburgh University, in favour of Helen Millar Lowe who attended Accounting and Business Method classes during session 1923-24, attending 3 examinations and gaining an average of 83 per cent. The certificate was designed for a male student and the word 'he' has not been amended.
  9. Certificate of Merit, Edinburgh University, Faculty of Law, in favour of Miss Helen M. Lowe, a member of the class of Mercantile Law during session 1924-25, obtaining the 2nd place in the Honours List. The certificate had been designed for a male student, and Mr has been overwritten with Miss.
  10. certificate offered by Edinburgh University, dated 9 March 1925, in favour of Miss Helen M. Lowe who attended course of lectures on Mercantile Law during session 1924-25, and was present for all 12 occasions when attendance was ascertained, and was present at both periodic examinations obtaining an average of 80 per cent. The certificate was designed for a male student, and 'He' has been corrected to 'She'.

Contained within the collection too is a draft of a paper on the career of Helen Millar Lowe written in the context of the broader gender literature of the accounting profession by Dr Ingrid Jeacle, Accounting and Finance Group, The University of Edinburgh Business School, Autumn 2009.


  • Creation: 1919-1930


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Open to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance of vist.

Biographical / Historical

Helen Millar Lowe was born in Duns, Berwickshire, Scotland, on 10 December 1897. She was the daughter of James Millar Lowe, a coal agent, and Margaret Lowe, who had married locally on 29 June 1892. She attended Berwickshire High School, in Duns.

Lowe worked with the firm of chartered accountants Chiene and Tait in Edinburgh for nine years, going to them first in 1919. After an Act was passed that allowed women to qualify as Chartered Accountants she indentured with Chiene and Tait, went straight through the examinations and was admitted as a Chartered Accountant in 1926. In the lead up to the CA examinations she took some classes in Accounting and Business Method and Mercantile Law at Edinburgh University. She was the third woman in Edinburgh to qualify as a Chartered Accountant, and according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) she was the second female member of the Society of Accountants in Edinburgh, and the fourth woman chartered accountant in all of Scotland. While with Chiene and Tait she did practically all their income tax work and did a good deal of work in arranging investments and insurance.

In 1928 she began her own chartered accountancy business, the first woman in Edinburgh who had taken this step seriously. She conducted her business at 28 Queen Street, Edinburgh, and then from November 1930 at 44 Charlotte Square.

During her career she instigated many projects in the service of elderly people, especially through the Edinburgh and Leith Old People's Welfare Council for which she was awarded an MBE in 1964. She had a lifelong interest in the medical profession, mounting a successful campaign in 1957 to ensure that the Bruntsfield Hospital for Women and the Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital employed only qualified female medical staff. She was treasurer of both hospitals when they were handed to the NHS in 1947 and also maintained roles in other medical organisations such as the South Eastern Association of the Medical Women’s Federation of which she was appointed Honorary Auditor in 1978. A second campaign to save the hospitals from closure in the 1980s was unsuccessful

Helen Millar Lowe died on 6 November 1997 just five weeks from her 100th birthday. She left a substantial fortune (reported to have been circa £7m) which had been built on a portfolio of stocks and shares and a number of local properties.


3 folders

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession no: E2009.41

Related Materials

Within the Lothian Health Services Archive (Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Library) there is the collection GD34 being the 'Helen Millar Lowe papers relating to Bruntsfield and Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital Campaigns'. Contact:


Jeacle, Ingrid, 'A practice of her own: Female career success beyond the accounting firm', in Critical Perspectives on Accounting 22 (2011), pp. 288-303.

Processing Information

Compiled by Graeme D. Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections.

Material relating to Helen Millar Lowe MBE, Chartered Accountant (1897-1997)
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
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Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
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