Born in The Gorbals, in 1938, Maria Fyfe grew up in Pollok, Glasgow. After gaining her degree in Economic History as mature student, she went on to lecture in Further Education in Falkirk, soon going on to become a senior lecturer on TUC courses for union reps at Central College, Glasgow.
From 1980 to 1987, Maria stood as a Councillor in Glasgow, including roles as convener of Personnel Committee, and deputy treasurer for the city council. It was in 1987 that she went on to be elected as Labour MP for Glasgow Maryhill. At the time, she was the only female Labour MP from Scotland, going on to hold her seat in UK Parliament until 2001.
In her biographical profile, provided by the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow, her list of titles, experience, and accolades is extensive - and inspiring! Including:
Appointed deputy shadow minister for women, later Scottish front bench spokesperson on Health, Education and Arts.
Chaired Scottish Group of Labour MPs.
Chaired Scottish Constitutional Convention working party on equal representation of women in planned Scottish Parliament.
Other parliamentary work included international development, making preparations for the Good Friday Agreement, and membership of the Council of Europe, advancing human rights issues.
Throughout Maria’s career, she has been an incredible force for Human Rights advocacy in policy making - both nationally, and internationally. A major passion being her involvement in equal rights for women campaigns, which earned her an Honorary Doctorate from Glasgow University.
When asked about her first days in UK Parliament, in a 2014 interview with The Evening Times, she recalls a scene of incredible lacking with regards to women’s representation:
"When I actually got to the House of Commons there were around 23 women, and only three from Scotland… I was thinking, this has got to change, we've got to have more women in parliament, and I was determined to be part of achieving that."
It was a time when the voices of women were close to excluded in policy making, even on topics which may normatively and/or reasonably be seen as requiring women at the forefront of discussions. Maria, however, never accepted doors being closed on these discussions, nor the gender-biased ways in which women were portrayed - from Parliament and media, to workplaces, education, the home, and even prisons.
Maria Fyfe campaigned tirelessly throughout her career, well up to the present day - through her writing, public speaking, and activism. Including spearheading the recent campaign which saw the famous Mary Barbour - one of the first female Councillors in Glasgow’s City Chambers - finally being honoured, with a statue in Govan.
A significant figure in Scottish politics, Maria Fyfe’s hard work and support of others is a fantastic inspiration - “Rebel Maria” indeed!
You can find out more about Maria’s life and career in her book, “A Problem Like Maria”. As well as in some of the truly insightful interviews she has given:
Listen to the official British Library recording of Maria Fyfe’s interview for The History of Parliament Oral History Project, available here.