Revolutionary Politics

Councillor Anne Horn - #ScotWomenStand Role Model & Supporter

SNP Councillor for Kintyre and the Islands, in Argyll & Bute, Cllr Anne Horn is a highly active campaigner for equality, and the end of violence against women, as well as a supporter of renewable energy and sustainability for the Argyll & Bute communities.

*Content warning: Domestic abuse.*

Cllr Anne Horn, SNP, of Argyll & Bute.

Cllr Anne Horn, SNP, of Argyll & Bute.

I recall a defining moment at an early point in my career when I found myself on the path of a women whose story opened my eyes and clarified, within me, the feeling that I must use my voice for those who are unable, for many reasons, to find or use their own.

I found myself listening to a lady, who had recently fled her home, picked up her children barefooted from her garden and ran to safety in fear of her life at the hands of her husband. She was from a good home, her husband, a well-known and upstanding member of the community. Her children well dressed and well behaved. She had flown from her garden that day, not knowing quite where she would go. He had held a knife to her, she was no longer willing to stay silent and suffer.

At that point, I was inspired by her courage, her resolve and in all her vulnerability the strength she had found, within herself, to bring about change, to rescue herself and to begin to rebuild from a new beginning.

My own journey took a turn and I began to understand that I too had to find courage to use my voice in spaces where I could make a real difference.

Since becoming a councillor, every day has offered opportunity, often finding myself in corners, on behalf of individuals or my community, which are difficult. I brought some skills which have been useful but I’ve continually been building more. Diplomacy, tact, strength and discernment regularly feature in my work and I value the every present opportunity to work alongside others, recognising the skills and energy they bring and coming together to resolve issues and find ways to move forward.

I would encourage other women to go into local politics. There is a growing support network and it is very rewarding.

Alongside her role as Councillor, Cllr Horn is the Director of Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust, and an active member of both the Tarbert Youth Music Initative, and the Argyll and Bute VAW Multi Agency Partnership. Find out more about Cllr Anne Horn, including how to get in touch with her, on the Argyll & Bute Council website.

#FBFMightyWomen - Winnie Ewing

Glasgow-born Winnie Ewing is an internationally renowned politician. A prominent SNP politician, as well as a member of both Parliament, Scottish Parliament, and European Parliament, Ewing generated huge support for the SNP in the 1967 by-election. Acting as the Scottish National Party President from 1987 to 2005, Ewing also qualified and practised as a solicitor and notary public, being the Secretary of the Glasgow Bar Association from 1962 to 1967.

Winnie Ewing, in 1967 (Photo Credit:  The Blantyre Project )

Winnie Ewing, in 1967 (Photo Credit: The Blantyre Project)

Ewing’s political foray first came about through her membership with the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association, where she actively campaigned for Scottish Independence. Winning the Hamilton by-election as the SNP candidate, Ewing attended Westminster in a Scottish-built Hillman Imp, and with her presence, SNP had a significant rise in membership. In 1974, Ewing was took the position as the SNP spokesperson on external affairs, and in the following year became a Member of European Parliament.

Taking SNP Presidency in 1987, and by 1995 Ewing became Britain’s longest serving MEP. In addition, she was the former Vice President of the European Radical Alliance. In 1999 Ewing did not stand for the European Parliament but became a Member of the Scottish Parliament in the first session of the Scottish Parliament representing the Highlands and Islands.

Outside of the political environment, Ewing was a Vice President of Parity, an equal rights charity, and was conferred with an honorary LLD degree from the University of Glasgow.

The current First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, believes Ewing ‘changed the course of Scottish political history’[1]. Ewing has been a trailblazer for politics, women in politics, and the Scottish political landscape. She promoted Scotland’s national interest in Europe, which resulted in her being awarded the sobriquet of Madame Ecosse.

Winnie Ewing with her portrait, at The Scottish Parliament in 2009 (Photo Credit:  BBC Scotland ).

Winnie Ewing with her portrait, at The Scottish Parliament in 2009 (Photo Credit: BBC Scotland).

Ewing chaired the first meeting of the devolved Scottish Parliament, and in an interview 2013, claimed that she had been urged to stand by three young men from the Hamilton SNP branch who visited her when she was living in the southside of Glasgow. This is a brilliant example of how those in power can bring others in who have been marginalised or excluded from political realms. Some Labour politicians from the central belt at the time, in response to Ewing’s victories, treated her so badly she had to report their behaviour to the Commons’ Authorities.

 "She argued her cause and her corner at a time when it wasn't fashionable to do so, and she did it against all of the odds having experienced abuse and bullying along the way," - FM Nicola Sturgeon


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-43516895/political-heroes-snp-nicola-sturgeon-on-winnie-ewing


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Written by Beth Cloughton, Young Women Lead Programme Intern, with YWCA Scotland - The Young Women’s Movement. You can follow Beth, and more of her writing on Twitter @Bacloughton, and on the Young Women’s Movement blog!

#TBTMightyWomen - Mary Barbour

Magistrate, local councillor and bailie are just a few titles that define this week’s #TBTMightyWomen profile. Mary Barbour started her journey as a political activist through the Kinning Park Co-operative Guild, leading to her spearheading the South Govan Women’s Housing Association at the time of the Glasgow Rent Strikes in the early 20th century.

In response to a 25% rent increase, proposed by private landlords, Barbour organised both eviction resistance protests and tenant committees. Here, she joined left-wing groups, like the Independent Labour Party and the Socialist Sunday School Movement. Barbour’s work quickly generated a lot of support which led to formation of ‘Mrs Barbour’s Army’[1].

Mary Barbour (Image Credit: The  Pearce Institute )

Mary Barbour (Image Credit: The Pearce Institute)

Alongside Agnes Dollan and Helen Crawfurd, Barbour [2] created the Women’s Peace Crusade (WPC) in 1916, at the Great Women’s Peace Conference. The group primarily campaigned for a negotiation settlement to WWI, with open air meetings that was unfortunately hindered through the development of a coalition government led by Lloyd George. WPC began to branch, and spread from Glasgow to all over Scotland, as well as England, campaigning until the end of the war.

In formal politics, Barbour assumed the position as the first women Bailie on Glasgow Corporation, alongside Mary Bell, as well as being appointed one of the first women Magistrates. Barbour was the Labour candidate for the Fairfield war in Govan, elected to Glasgow Town Council (one of the first woman councillors too!), and appointed as the Justice of the Peace commissioner for the City of Glasgow. Phew.

In between all of these incredible roles, Barbour also chaired the Glasgow Women’s Welfare and Advisory Clinic! This centre was the first of its kind in Scotland as it offered advice on birth control for women[3]!

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Moving to the modern day, Glasgow Women’s Library with Sharon Thomas created a monument in honour of Barbour, resulting in a resurgence of interest in her extensive work. Remember Mary Barbour Association then formed and campaigned for the creation of a statue in Barbour’s honour, which was completed in March last year (making it the fourth statue of a woman in the entirety of Glasgow…).

Check out these links:

-        https://remembermarybarbour.wordpress.com/mary-barbour-rent-strike-1915/

-        http://dangerouswomenproject.org/2017/03/02/mary-barbour-dangerous-woman/

-        https://party.coop/2018/03/08/mary-barbour-honoured-on-international-womens-day/


[1] http://www.acumfaegovan.com/govan-history/mary-barbour

[2] The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 2007. p. 2

[3] Birth Control Local Clinic Opens for Married Women". The Govan Press. 1926-08-13

#TBTMightyWomen - Maria Fyfe MP

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:

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  • 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.

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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:

'Rebel' Maria Fyfe tells of her time as an MP, the barriers she faced and the highlights of her career - by Caroline Wilson of the Evening Times

Just met a rebel named Maria As she prepares to retire from Westminster at the next election - By Jennifer Cunningham of The Herald


Listen to the official British Library recording of Maria Fyfe’s interview for The History of Parliament Oral History Project,
available here.






#TBTMightyWomen - Constance Markievicz

Constance Markievicz, the first woman elected to the British House of Commons.

 

Constance Markievicz was a socialist suffragette, revolutionary and served as Minister for Labour in the early 20th century, as well as a Member of Parliament for Dublin St Patrick, and served as a Teachta Dála (an assembly delegate- similar to a Member of Parliament).

Not only was she a founding member of Fianna Éireann, and the Irish Citizen Army, she was also the first woman elected to the British House of Commons in 1918 [1]. Although she rejected her seat at Parliament in Britain, she continued to be incredibly influential through less formal routes, grassroots campaigns, and sustained intellectual critique of political structures.

“The Rebel Countess”, Constance Markievicz, gun in hand.

“The Rebel Countess”, Constance Markievicz, gun in hand.

 "I would never take an oath of allegiance to the power I meant to overthrow"

[Quoted in Anne Marreco, The Rebel Countess, p241]

It was in 1908 when Markievicz became politically active, first by joining a revolutionary feminist movement named Sinn Féin and Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland)[2]. Her political activism was also performatively genius- during a campaign against Churchill’s election (who opposed women voting), Markievicz rode into the constituency in a carriage drawn by four white (one of the suffrage’s colours) horses to promote her political ideology, only to be heckled (classic) by a man asking whether she could cook dinner. Markievicz responded this hilarious and well-thought out (see:sarcasm) comment with ‘…yes. Can you drive a coach and four?’ – personally, I doubt he could do either.

“The Rebel Countess”, Constance Markievicz.

“The Rebel Countess”, Constance Markievicz.

The rebel Countess endured repeated bouts in prison for working towards an alternative reality, one that went against the norm. Although time incarcerated didn’t stop her from being elected into the House of Commons, Markievicz preferred to be at rallies, working in slums, providing food for protesting union workers, and arming herself to fight for suffragist ideals and anti-imperialist agenda[3].

 

Markievicz lived her life by the rules she set herself and not within the confines of society at the time- she was a proficient mechanic, she opted to wear trousers instead of skirts (and was heavily teased for this), she knew how to load and shoot weapons, and was elected to positions of power directing huge groups of people to a more feminist future. And this future was one considering the intersectional nature of identity. This Irish badass recognised that ‘the first step on the road to freedom is to realise ourselves as Irishwomen – not as Irish or merely as women, but as Irishwomen doubly enslaved and with a double battle to fight” (Markievicz, 1909).


[1] Countess Markievicz—'The Rebel Countess'" (PDF). Irish Labour History Society

[2] Countess Markievicz (Constance Markievicz)"Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics.

[3] McKenna, Joseph (2011). Guerrilla Warfare in the Irish War of Independence, 1919-1921. McFarland. p. 112. ISBN 0786485191.