Westminster

#FBFMightyWomen - Ray Michie

Not only was our #FBF a Scottish speech therapist, born in the Old Manse, but she was also a Liberal Democrat politician. Today we present, Ray Michie.

Ray Michie MP   (Photo Credit:  BBC, 2008 ).

Ray Michie MP (Photo Credit: BBC, 2008).

Spending fourteen years representing in Parliament (MP) for Argyll and Bute between 1987 and 2001, Michie was the first person to pledge the oath of allegiance in the House of Lords entirely in Gaelic.

Michie first entered into politics whilst waiting for her father to arrive for his own political meetings. Here, she developed her taste for the political, and regularly spoke before he went on stage. Bannerman, Michie’s dad, fought Argyll at the 1945 election, and Inverness at the 1950 general election, where he lost the by-election here and again in 1954, and 1955. In 1967, Bannerman became a life peer, which Michie also eventually became.

Michie worked as a speech therapist at the county hospital in Oban, and later for the Argyll and Clyde Health Board in 1977. During this time, she supplemented speech-therapy with political activism (not easy work!), and became the Chairman of Argyll Liberal Association from 1973 to 1976, which was proceeded by becoming the vice-Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party from 1977 to 1983. Michie defeated the Convservative ministers, John Mackay, in the 1987 general election to become a Member of Parliament standing her as the Liberals’ only female MP. Not only this, but Michie was an advocate for Home Rule for Scotland, and in promoting and developing the Scottish Gaelic language. 

When the Liberal Democrats formed in 1988, Michie joined and increased her majority in the following two general elections, garnering support of voters in the remote constituencies of the peninsulas and islands. This was perhaps because as a Liberal Democrat, she was the spokesperson on transport and rural development from 1987 to 1988, moving to ‘women’s issues’ in 1988 to 1994, and then as spokesperson on Scotland from 1988 to 1997. Speaker Betty Boothroyd appointed Michie as a member of the panel of chairmen during her last term in the Commons, from 1997 to 2001, where she supported campaigns to end submarine operations of the Royal Navy in the Firth of Clyde, as well as successfully bidding for residents of Gigha to buy their own island.

Her political involvement doesn’t stop here; Michie also became a joint Vice-Chairsperson on the Parliamentary Group on the Whisky industry, and was made a life peer as Baroness Michie of Gallanach, of Oban in Argyll and Bute in 2001, after stepping down from parliament in the general election. Michie was also appointed as an Honorary Associate of the National Council of Women of Great Britain, and appointed to the Scottish Broadcasting Commission shortly before her passing.

 Michie’s life was characterised by political involvement, and she managed to accomplish so much in every aspect of it; a mother to three children, a wife, the Vice-President of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, and all the political positions she held on top of that. Her life was committed to furthering the causes she held close to her liberal ideologies.


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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!  

#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.


 
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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!

Jenny Marr - #ScotWomenStand Role Model & Supporter

Empowered and mobilised through her life in the Scottish Borders, and work as member of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Jenny Marr sees the full potential of women in politics, making significant positive change for all a reality.

Jenny addresses us all as members of the #ScotWomenStand campaign, and movement, with mighty words of encouragement to register and use our votes!

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Using your vote… It’s another thing to add to the to-do list, isn’t it?

And of course first you have to register to do it.

Then there’s the wading through of manifestos, trying to understand policies, which are not exactly the work of Shakespeare. Then there's the appeal of Love Island, or similar, which are just too all-consuming to consider anything else.

Been there, got the t-shirt. Trust me, I understand.


But what is the alternative? Be left out? Let your voice go unheard?

I know its certainly true that many politicians need to be better at keeping in touch. But don’t allow the laziness of some to block your participation.

Your voice is worth so much more than that.

Women have the right to tell their story, and have fought for that right - some are still fighting. And part of that is through putting a cross on a ballot paper in the privacy of the polling booth.

It’s your school, it’s your health centre, it’s your money. And it goes deeper than that. It’s your grandma who can’t get her flu jab this year, it’s your child whose classroom is too small, or their resources too few. It’s your hard-earned taxes.

Don’t exclude yourself from the narrative. Don’t overthink it. Don’t leave it to someone else.



Sometimes someone in your life is a bigger influence than they were ever able to know. My Grandad, who died when I was just eight, was a Cllr in the North of England.  He was an advocate for, and passionate defender of, local democracy and local government.

He believed in “parish pump politics”, of chewing the fat in the Market Square and fixing problems as a community. Before local government was reorganised, and Councils became much bigger, he said “We have our grumbles and grouses, but at least the system had a soul.”

More than that, the community had a voice, and used it.

They used it by voting.

Politicians are like everyone else. They have their strengths and weaknesses and certainly none of them are perfect.  And if you want to make sure the right ones are hired and fired coming polling day, you can.

By voting you can turn round to them and say I voted for you, I put my trust in you. You really can hold them to account.

The best thing is – apart from how quick and easy the process is – you don’t even have to pick any of them! Leave your ballot blank, spoil it, write a message. All ballots have to be verified, so it will be seen! My favourite was a drawing of a cat, and believe me, that’s not the strangest thing I’ve seen!

Voting plays its part in determining who we are - as a person and as a nation. What we stand for.

If you’re disillusioned, you have every right to be. But disengagement won’t fix it. Don’t make it easier to be ignored.

Play your part.  Because progress is often achieved by small, but not insignificant acts. Like clicking on this link. Or by registering for a postal vote and walking the 2 minutes to the post box. It matters, because you matter.

You can follow Jenny, and all of her community empowering work, over on Twitter @BordersJen.

Read more about Jenny’s recent selection by her party, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, to stand as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency.  It’s an extra dose of inspiration, to raise your voice and be heard in the forums of political decision making!




#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.

#TBTMightyWomen - Katharine Stewart-Murray, Duchess of Atholl

Katharine Marjory Stewart-Murray, Duchess of Atholl - the first woman elected to represent a Scottish seat at Westminster.

The ‘Red Duchess’, Katherine Stewart-Murray MP.

The ‘Red Duchess’, Katherine Stewart-Murray MP.

Yesterday we celebrated centenary of The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act which allowed some women to stand for election to Parliament in the UK. It took five more years for the first Scottish woman to be elected. Katharine “Kitty” Murray, the Duchess of Atholl, joined the House of Commons in 1923 after winning the seat of Kinross and West Perthshire for the Conservatives. Her story is quite extraordinary and what we know of her and her political journey seems so full of contradictions that I would love to have her over for a tea and a natter!

 She maintained that a woman’s place was at home with her family, and she was one of the key speakers at an anti-suffrage meeting in Glasgow arguing that suffrage movement became too militant, and yet she managed to gain a seat at Westminster as one of only eight women there – far away from the comfort of her own home.  She was not afraid to voice her opinions even if they were at odds with her party, and she embraced change too – later in life meeting with prominent suffragettes on a sisterly basis, and even gaining support from Sylvia Pankhurst in her electoral campaign of 1938.  

 She became known for her humanitarian work in 1930s and after a visit to war torn Spain she started her campaign to bring 4,000 children to the safety of Britain. She succeeded, and her efforts were applauded on the international stage, but at home she was accused of being an anarchist and communist and she earned a title she despised – The Red Duchess. Undeterred by all that, a year later she published The Conscription of a People in which she protested the abuse of human rights in the Soviet Union. Her mistrust of Adolf Hitler and his bestselling Mein Kampf led her to commission a more accurate translation of it, which she felt spelled the terrifying message in it more clearly. Not everyone agreed with her.

 Kitty resigned her whip in 1938 as a protest against Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement of Adolf Hitler and prompted a by-election by applying for the Chiltern Hundreds. Her campaign received support from Winston Churchill and Sylvia Pankhurst, but it was dealt a deadly blow by no other than Stalin himself who also publicly endorsed her. Despite Chamberlain’s efforts who mobilised all of the resources of the Conservative Research Department and the Whips office against her she lost by just 1305 votes.

 After losing her seat she still remained an active campaigner for human rights and against totalitarian regimes and as the chairman of the League for European Freedom in Britain she spoke against the Soviet control of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.  She also became one of the first British campaigners against female circumcision in Africa.

 “To Socrates they gave hemlock. Gracoleus they killed with sticks and stones. The greatest and best they crucified. Katherine Atholl can hold up her head in good company. Let the victors when they come, when the forts of folly fall, find the body by the wall.”

- Josiah Wedgwood on the result of the 1938 by-election.

 

#TBTMightyWomen feature, selected and written by YWCA Scotland - The Young Women’s Movement Director, Patrycja Kupiec. Follow Patrycja on Twitter @PMKupiec, and @YoungWomenScot.

 

References: 

 Baxter, Kenneth (2011). "Chapter Nine: Identity, Scottish Women and Parliament 1918-1979". In Campbell, Jodi A.; Ewan, Elizabeth; Parker, Heather. The Shaping of Scottish Identities: Family, Nation and the Worlds Beyond. Guelph, Ontario: Centre for Scottish Studies, University of Guelph. 

Campsie, Alison (20 June 2017). "The "Red Duchess" – Scotland's first female MP"The Scotsman. Retrieved 19 November 2018.

 Quigley, Elizabeth (2 March 2010). “From political maverick to historical footnote”. BBC Scotland.  Retrieved 19 November 2018.

 (No author). Katherine Marjory Murray (Kitty) later Duchess of Atholl ~ Politician and Scotland’s First Woman MP. Made in Perth. Retrieved 19 November 2018.