Royal Charter

The Society’s work is underpinned by our Supplementary Royal Charter granted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  Amongst other things, this:

  • Established the Society’s new name and modernised constitution;
  • Sets the Objects of the Society as being “To provide support and aid to women who are resident in Scotland and are of good character and are single and require assistance by reason of financial hardship, age or ill health in the interest of the general public benefit” and defines what being “single” means;
  • Sets out the powers of the Society to allow us to take forward our work including allowing us to make investments, employ staff, own property, enter into partnerships, etc;
  • Sets out the role of the Society’s General Committee and some of the rules about how that Committee should meet and make decisions;
  • Allows the Society to update our “Bye Laws” which set out in more detail how the Society will operate and, in particular, how the General Committee will be appointed and make decisions.

To see a copy of our Supplementary Royal Charter please see here [Link to document]

General Committee

The General Committee meets 4 times each year and usually alternates between venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow but also with the option to attend virtually as needed.  One of these meetings is the Annual General Meeting.  The General Committee has two sub-committees which meet periodically, and which focus on oversight of (a) the management of our investments and (b) our policies and procedures for making grants to beneficiaries and supporting women more generally.

Catriona Reynolds, Chair of General Committee

The current Chair of the General Committee is Ms Catriona Reynolds


The Society can have between 10 and 17 Trustees who are members of the General Committee.  Our Charter requires that, as far as possible, we maintain a balance between Trustees living or working in the East and West of Scotland, but we also try to ensure a broader geographical spread.  Trustees are appointed to serve for an initial term of 3 to 4 years, with the opportunity to be re-appointed, up to a maximum tenure of 12 years.  They are not remunerated, but travel expenses are reimbursed.

If you are interested in becoming a Trustee of the Society, please see here.

Trustee vacancies

The Society is always keen to hear from people who are interested in our work and who may also be interested in becoming a Trustee.

Current Trustees come from a wide range of backgrounds and bring a wide range of skills, knowledge, and experiences.  We are keen to maintain this diversity and are interested in hearing from anyone who has relevant skills and is interested in contributing to the future work and direction of the Society.

The Society provides support to older women, many of whom have poor health, who are in financial need and our support is open to women from all backgrounds, faiths and communities.  As such, we would particularly welcome new Trustees:

  • From diverse backgrounds and who are representative and reflective of the communities we serve;
  • With experience or knowledge of the challenges of living in poverty and the support available
  • From a Medical / AHP / Nursing background with knowledge or experience of:
    • the health issues facing older people;
    • mental health issues;
    • the challenges faced by disabled people.

Additionally, the Society is both a Registered Scottish Charity and a Royal Charter Company and we are very fortunate to have significant assets from which we draw our operating funds.  As such, we are also interested in new Trustees with experience and expertise in:

  • Accountancy and/or charity finance
  • Investment Management
  • Law

All Trustees must be considered to be “Fit and Proper Persons” for being a Charity Trustee.  You can find guidance on these criteria and what is expected of someone who is a Charity Trustee from the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR)’s website here.

If you think you may be interested in supporting the work of the Society, please contact the Chief Executive via our Contact Us details for an informal discussion.




Annual Reports

The Society’s AGM is normally held in September or November and our Annual Report is published once it has been adopted at the AGM.  You can access a copy of the Society’s most recent Annual Report and Financial Statements by clicking on the link below:

  • The Trustees' Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year to 31st March 2022 can be downloaded here

Previous years’ Annual Report and Financial Statements are available below:

  • The Trustees' Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year to 31st March 2021 can be downloaded here
  • The Trustees' Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year to 31st March 2020 can be downloaded here
  • The Trustees' Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year to 31st March 2019 can be downloaded here
  • The Trustees' Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year to 31st March 2018 can be downloaded here
  • The Trustees' Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year to 31st March 2017 can be downloaded here
  • The Trustees' Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year to 31st March 2016 can be downloaded here

Key Policies and Privacy Statement

You can access copies of the Society’s key policies by clicking on the links below:

  • Privacy Statement
  • Royal Charter
  • Bye Laws
  • Guidance on the Admission of Beneficiaries
  • RSSWS Gift Aid Declaration

If you would like more information about any of our policies, please do not hesitate to contact us.


You can access a copy of the Society’s most recent Newsletter by clicking on the link below:

  • RSSWS Newsletter 2023

Previous years’ Newsletters are available below:

  • RSSWS Newsletter 2022
  • RSSWS Newsletter 2021
  • RSSWS Newsletter 2020

Our history

 The Society was founded in 1847 by Mr William P Mitchell, an Edinburgh solicitor, who put forward a scheme to help “indigent gentlewomen” of Scottish birth or education, who were struggling to survive on low incomes and limited savings.  

In these Victorian times “male-dominated society regarded marriage and motherhood as the only role for middle-class women. Unmarried women formed a sort of sub-class: many had seen marriage pass them by, or they spent much of their lives caring for ageing parents or younger members of their family.  Well-educated, but trained for no profession, they were considered by their maternal instincts and without further training to be well-suited to teaching, working as governesses, needlework or tuition in the pianoforte.  Many found themselves living in a social limbo, dealing with unruly children, despised by their employers yet by birth and education unable to mix with the servants…. Many suffered the fate of the Bronte sisters, whose struggle to survive by teaching and working as governesses resulted in such novels as Jane Eyre, Villette or Agnes Grey.  This last, published in December 1846, was a stark realisation of the governess’ situation, though unlike those who would in time become beneficiaries of the Indigent Gentlewomen’s Fund, Agnes Grey married her curate and no doubt lived happily ever after”(Hatvany, 1997)

In 1930, the Society received grant of a Royal Charter from King George V and became known as “The Royal Society for the Relief of Indigent Gentlewomen of Scotland” or, less formally, the “Indigent Gentlewomen’s Fund” or just “IGF”.

Over the years, the Society evolved to meet the changing needs of society and these culminated in 2014 when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II granted a new Supplementary Charter changing the Society’s name to “The Royal Society for the Support of Women of Scotland”, or “RSSWS”, and bringing with it new charitable purposes and new, broader, admission criteria against which applications for support are now considered.

In 2015, it was estimated that since its inception, the Society had distributed a total of over £33 million in direct payments to women in need.  Adjusting for inflation, this is equivalent to well over £150 million in today’s money.

For a summary of key milestones in the Society’s past see here. The Society also commissioned a more detailed history “The Royal Society for the Relief of Indigent Gentlewomen of Scotland…a History 1847- 1997” by Dr Doris Hatvany and we are happy to make a digitised copy available to those who have an interest in the Society’s work and history.