Scottish Labour

#FBFMightyWomen- Agnes Agnew Hardie

Working as a shop assistant in Glasgow in the late 19th century, Agnes Agnew Hardie later became a pioneering member of the Shop Assistants’ Union, primarily in an organisational role, being the first woman to hold a position in this group. Affiliated to Labour from the start of her political career, Hardie was the Women’s Organiser of the Party during WWI and during this time, joined the Women’s Peace Crusade, opposing conscription laws.

Unfortunately, no widely accessible images of Agnes Agnew Hardie could be found.  ‘If she can't see it, she can't be it' -  let’s work together to ensure visibility of positive role models, so as to inspire every following generation of women leaders.

Unfortunately, no widely accessible images of Agnes Agnew Hardie could be found. ‘If she can't see it, she can't be it' - let’s work together to ensure visibility of positive role models, so as to inspire every following generation of women leaders.

In 1937, Hardie was elected as a Member of Parliament for Glasgow Springburn, holding her seat up until she retired in 1945. Her election in the early 20th century positioned her as Glasgow’s first female MP, and the fifth female MP ever to be elected in Scotland. Amongst these firsts, Hardie was also elected to the Glaswegian School Board, and initial female member of the Glasgow Trades Council.

Throughout her political activism, Hardie spoke boldly on domestic issues, including food shortages, ensuring the household voice that is still often marginalised, was heard. The environment of Glaswegian, like all of Scottish politics, was typically masculine, yet it gradually changed through more women like Hardie entering into, and speaking for the rights of women.

Unfortunately, her legend is documented minimally. Women in history have invested so much and yet their contribution in whatever way, be it domestic, economic, emotional, political or physical has been erased so much from records. After hours searching, her husband’s career, her children’s choices were considerably more evidenced. Hardie was, like so many other women, recent political ‘firsts’. Even now, in 2019, ‘firsts’ are still being made with women’s (recognised, formal) participation in the political realm. We need to re-write, currently document, and provide platforms for future political activists to be remembered, honoured, and inspired.

Unfortunately, her legend is minimally documented. Women in history have invested equally and yet their contribution in whatever way, be it domestic, economic, emotional, political or physical has been erased so much from records. After hours searching, her husband’s career, her children’s choices were considerably more evidenced. Hardie was, like so many other women, recent political ‘firsts’. Even now, in 2019, ‘firsts’ are still being made with women’s (recognised, formal) participation in the political realm. We need to re-write, currently document, and provide platforms for future political activists to be remembered, honoured, and inspired.


 
beth-ywca-scotland

Written by Beth Cloughton, Young Women Lead Programme Inter, 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]!

220px-Mary_Barbour_Statue_-_Front_view.jpg

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:

MariaFyfe_MP
  • 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.

DjQ1sLZWsAEyPZX.jpg

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.