The Suffrage Oak: Marking 100 Years of Women ‘Living and Growing’ into the Body Politic

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Suffrage Oak, 2015, before storm damage, © Glasgow Women’s Library

One hundred years ago today, Louisa Innes Lumsden (1840-1935) proclaimed:

‘the vote was the door to everything and the door was open’. [1]

On 20th April 1918, in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park, Louisa Lumsden was ‘honoured’ to plant an oak tree to commemorate and celebrate the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave some women the vote. The oak tree stands at the top of Kelvin Way and has continued to be a reminder, symbol and inspiration to the women of Glasgow over the past hundred years. In 1995, on International Women’s Day, the Women’s Committee of Glasgow City Council erected a beautiful plaque next to the tree which reads, ‘This oak tree was planted by Women’s Suffrage Organisations in Glasgow on 20 April 1918 to commemorate the granting of votes to women’. The oak won Scottish Tree of the Year in 2015, nominated by the Glasgow Women’s Library who feature it as a stop on their West End Heritage walk. While sadly damaged and much reduced by Storm Ophelia in 2017, the tree is still standing and will hopefully weather future storms. Glasgow City Council donated the storm damaged oak cuttings to the Glasgow Women’s Library.

 

I first noticed the oak wandering up Kelvin Way many years ago thanks to the plaque and often wondered who were the women that planted this tree. It seems fitting that for the centenary of its planting we should learn their names and more about that Saturday in Kelvingrove Park.

Image of Louisa Lumsden in her St Leonard robes from her autobiography Yellow Leaves: Memories of a Long Life (1933), p.178

In Louisa Lumsden’s autobiography, Yellow Leaves: Memories of a Long Life (1933), she mentions the event briefly and tells us it was presided over by Frances Melville (1973-1962) with the thanks offered by Eunice Guthrie Murray (1878-1960). Lumsden, 78 years of age at the time, had come down from Aberdeen to plant the tree. She was a pioneer of higher education having been one of five women who attend Girton College, Cambridge in 1869 and was a lifelong advocate for girls and women’s education. At one point, she was the Headmistress of St Leonard’s School in St Andrews where Eunice Murray was educated. In 1908, Lumsden was invited to become the president of the Aberdeen Suffrage Society (a branch of National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies). She agreed as long as it did not take up too much of her time but she soon ‘found that little time was left for anything else’.[2] In her autobiography she recalls loaning the suffrage movement her caravan so they could do a kind of suffragists on tour with key figures such as Millicent Fawcett and Elise Ingis. Lumsden described herself as a constitutional suffragist and felt they were fighting a battle on two fronts with the militant suffragettes and the anti-suffragists. As we have seen throughout this year of #vote100, the distinction and tensions between suffragists and suffragettes has been highlighted (see WHS suffrage resource). The event in Glasgow was a ‘joint celebration by Women’s Suffrage Societies’.[3] A meeting after the tree planting was held Queen’s Rooms. Tickets were 6d and could be purchased from either Glasgow Society for Women’s Suffrage, a suffragist society, or the Women’s Freedom League, a suffragette association. After a bit of digging it has become clearer that the suffragists and suffragettes were united in this celebration.[4] The presence of figures from all sides of the Suffrage Movement, both militant and constitutional, indicates that this was intended to unite and celebrate the legacy of all women who fought for the vote.

Image: Queen’s Rooms, Clifton Street, Glasgow (opposite Kelvingrove Park). The location of the Suffrage Celebration meeting on Saturday 20th April 2018. Chaired by Chrystal MacMillan. © Yvonne McFadden

The planting of the Suffrage Oak in Kelvin Way was a collaborative event bring together multiple suffrage groups in recognition of this great step forward for women. The Glasgow Herald reported the event was organised by the Glasgow Society of Women’s Suffrage, Scottish Universities Suffrage Union, Women’s Freedom League, Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise and United Suffragists.[5] The tree planting ceremony was presided over by Frances Melville who was the Mistress of Queen Margaret College, Glasgow and a member of the Scottish Universities Suffrage Union. She was a suffragist and an advocate for women’s higher education. One of the first women to matriculate at Edinburgh University in 1892, Melville was the first woman in Scotland to be awarded a Bachelor of Divinity in 1910 from St Andrews. It was reported that Melville’s speech at the planting of the oak explained the choice of memorial:

‘The Enfranchisement of women would bring new life into the body politic, and therefore it was most appropriate to plant in commemoration a living and growing thing’

She also payed tribute to the role of early suffragists work to the ‘women and men who had so long and loyally upheld the cause – especially those of the older generation, who had worked so splendidly for the cause in its earlier days.’

Frances Melville, Mistress of Queen Margaret College, Glasgow. [source: https://universityofglasgowlibrary.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/frances-melville.jpg]

The vote of thanks was offered by Eunice Gurthrie Murray, who later that year would be the first woman in Scotland to stand as a candidate in a parliamentary election for Bridgeton. She was a lawyer from Cardross in Dunbartonshire and a prominent figure within the Women’s Freedom League. The WFL broke away from the Women’s Political and Social Union, unhappy with the Pankhurst heavy handed centralised control. Murray wrote, ‘I do not like the Pankhursts much, but I declare I bow to their spirit.’[6] Murray was herself arrested twice for addressing public meetings but not charged or imprisoned. She took part in WSPU processions in London and Edinburgh in 1910. A lifelong activist for women’s rights, Murray wrote extensively on the position of women in society. At the Kelvingrove celebration, she was reported to have said:

‘no woman looking back on the long fight for the suffrage could not help being glad she was a suffragist.’

Murray emphasised that women were ready and prepared to take on the responsibility of governance.

The vote of thanks was offered by Eunice Gurthrie Murray, who sat on the nation committee for the Women’s Freedom League.

The celebrations acknowledged the underlying tension of the 1918 enfranchisement in that only some women were now entitled to vote. Where all men over 21 years of age became enfranchised, it was only women over 30 who met the property qualification who could now vote. The events and speeches of the day addressed this and while 1918 was a huge step forward for women there was still work to be done. Later, at the meeting in the Queen’s Rooms, the chair Chrystal MacMillan was reported in the Glasgow Herald as stating that:

‘in celebrating this victory of women’s suffrage they were cognisant of the fact that many women were not included, and while they rejoice in the franchisement of women over 30, they hoped it would not be too long before other women were also enfranchised.’

Louisa Lumsden’s wisdom to young women who felt ‘bitterly’ about their exclusion was to ‘[h]ave patience, prepare yourselves; you cannot be too good for the opportunities that many come in the future’.

The oak tree is a symbol of reconciliation between all sides of the suffrage movement, it was a reminder that women must continue to grow women’s rights. After 1918, women organised themselves into various associations to campaign on issues including equal citizenship, women’s welfare and housing rights.[7] The Glasgow Society for Equal Citizenship held a regular commemorative dinner every year to celebrate the 1918 achievement. Prominent Scottish feminists were regular attendees including Marion Gilchrist, Elsie Inglis, Eunice Murray, Marion Buchanan and Frances Melville. These feminists continued to fight, campaign and advocate for women’s rights in all areas of society long after the vote was won. The Suffrage Oak is a physical commemoration to the legacy of the suffrage movement but it also is a reminder that the fight for women’s rights is a living and breathing movement that needs to be nurtured and maintained. I think Louisa Lumsden, Frances Melville and Eunice Murray would be proud of what their daughters and granddaughters have achieved in the hundred years since they planted their tree and to know that the Oak still inspires girls and women today to continue the fight for equality for all women.

Page signed by attendees of the Glasgow Society for Equal Citizenship Society Commemorative Dinner, 1938 including Frances Melville, Eunice Murray, Marion Gilchrist and others. Part of the Marion Buchanan Collection at the Glasgow Women’s Library.

Yvonne McFadden


Further Reading

WHS Suffrage Resource – https://womenssuffragescotland.wordpress.com

On the Suffrage movement in Aberdeeen see Sarah Pedersen, ‘The Conciliatory Sufragette’ http://womenshistoryscotland.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/5-The-Conciliatory-Suffragette.pdf

Frances Melville – http://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/biography/?id=WH0222&type=P

Eunice Murray – http://www.helensburgh-heritage.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=897:from-suffragette-to-councillor&catid=39:people-&Itemid=399

Louisa Lumsden, (1933) Yellow Leaves: Memories of a Long Life (William Blackwoods and sons: Edinburgh & London) https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015064809927;view=1up;seq=11


Notes

[1] Daily Record, 22nd April 1918, p.3

[2] Louisa Lumsden, (1933) Yellow Leaves: Memories of a Long Life (William Blackwoods and sons: Edinburgh & London), p. 170 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015064809927;view=1up;seq=11

[3] Daily Record, Public Notices, 19th April, 1918

[4] This is unsurprising as Sarah Pederson has shown networks and friendships between both sides were not uncommon despite their disagreement over methods.

[5] Glasgow Herald, 22nd April 1918, p.6

[6] Diary of Eunice Guthrie Murray: Volume 2

[7] See our suffrage resource for more information on these associations

Women as active citizens: politics and feminism in interwar Scotland

The ‘Extraordinary Slander Case’ – Dundee, 1892

I’m sure anyone reading this who has followed the news over the past few weeks will be neither shocked nor surprised at the latest revelations of how patriarchal power has enabled men to sexually harass and assault women. We all know that such behaviour doesn’t just happen in Hollywood, the acting, entertainment professions or in Westminster and the Scottish Parliament. While the feminist and women’s movements have done much to shine a light and challenge such behaviour, as Zoe Fairbairns powerfully argued in last year’s Sue Innes Memorial Lecture, ‘Five Decades, Five Feminisms’, still it persists.

But what does this have to do with women’s and gender history in Scotland?

Well unsurprisingly sexual harassment and discrimination is nothing new for Scottish women, or women anywhere. But we can learn lessons from the agency and courage that women in the past had in challenging sexist attitudes and harassment.

Here I’ll be discussing the ‘Extraordinary Slander Case’[1] that Marjory Panton, a 21 year old weaver, brought against David Craig, Assistant Mill Manager at Baxter’s Dens Works in Dundee. She took him to court seeking £500 in damages (about £41,000 in today’s money).

Women weavers at their looms inside Dens Works, c.1908, photograph (Photo courtesy of University of Dundee Archive Services) ©

First a bit of context. Dundee is known as a ‘Women’s Town’ as a result of the high proportion of women who worked in the city’s jute mills.[2]The largely female workforce had agency in withdrawing their labour if unhappy with their conditions.[3] If a woman was unhappy in one mill, she could easily find a job in another. Women’s work was very much in demand. This did not mean that they were paid well. Weavers were paid more than spinners, a distinction that became linked to notions of respectability with weavers wearing hats and gloves to work. Spinners thought the weavers were were ‘snobbish’.[4] But it’s worth underlining that no women working in jute earned the same as the male mill owners,  the male overseers, managers or workers. Regardless of the number of women workers, jute remained a patriarchal capitalist industry. Men made not only made more money but they had more power.

The incident

On the 10th of November 1892 Marjory sprained her foot on the stairs at work and spent eight days recovering at home and received treatment from her doctor. Three days after returning to work, David Steedman, a foreman working under Craig, ‘spoke to her about her health’ asking:

 ‘Don’t you think you are growing rather stout?, I do not think so myself but David Craig has been taking stock of you for a while’.

According to The Evening Telegraph Marjory ‘spoke to the defender the same day about the matter’. His response was to suggest that she was ‘uncommonly stout for her age’ and suggested that ‘her best plan’ would be to ‘get a line from her doctor certifying that she was not in a state of pregnancy’.

Marjory evidently went to see her doctor, Dr Miller, who informed her

‘that neither the defender nor any other man was entitled to get from her such a certificate’.

Instead he gave her a certificate to the effect that he had attended her while suffering from a sprained ankle. This was given to Steedman, who passed it to Craig. This was later returned to Marjory with ‘the remark that it was not what was wanted’.

All of Craig’s comments and requests were presumably made in full view of Marjory’s work colleagues, or she was concerned about gossip, as she argued in court that Craig’s

 ‘remarks and demand for a certificate as to her condition were all intended to insult and slander her and lower her in the eyes of her fellow workers’.

 

She accused Craig of making allegations that were ‘false and caluminious’ which were made ‘maliciously and without probable cause’. It was suggested that Marjory’s ‘feelings, character and health had in consequence had been injured’. No wonder!

Marjory demanded that Craig ‘make reparation’ but he had refused. He denied the accusations suggesting that neither he or Steedman ever said to Marjory or anyone else that she was pregnant, he also denied asking for a medical certificate of non-pregnancy. Yet, added that ‘any steps’ that he had taken ‘in the matter’ were ‘taken in the discharge of his duty’ as it was ‘a rule and custom in the Dens Factory to give girls thought to be pregnant warning to leave’. His argument was effectively that as Marjory had not been given warning to leave, he had not accused her of being pregnant.

So the question is whether Craig ever thought she was pregnant or instead used his power to cast aspersions on her character or ‘respectability’? Did he do it because he could? Or was Marjory put through this ordeal because she was ‘stout’? Did he want an excuse to dismiss her?

Obviously we will never know what happened in the Dens factory in 1892 but it seems to me that Craig had picked on the wrong woman! The fact that Marjory was a ‘respectable’ weaver may be significant in the fact that she challenged his behaviour and demanded compensation. Simply put, she wasn’t going to take it.

On the 29th of November Craig received a letter from Marjory’s lawyer requesting a payment of £50 as damages and suggesting that if this was not paid legal proceedings would follow. Craig agreed to a meeting with Marjory and her mother where he stated that ‘he was sorry for the misunderstanding that had arisen’, but ‘he could not apologise, as he had done no wrong’. He refused to pay any expenses. Marjory went ahead with her legal action against him. His response ‘for the sake of amicable settlement, and without admitting liability’ was to agree to pay Marjory’s expenses on the condition that she withdrew her claim for damages. Are these the actions of a guilty man? Marjory agreed to withdraw her claim. A receipt for £4 4s was drawn up to cover the expenses.

The Sheriff Court

However this was not the end of the matter. At a subsequent hearing at the Sheriff Court in March 1893 Craig suggested that Marjory’s statements were irrelevant and insufficient to support the conclusions of her petition, that her claim for damages or reparation had been discharged by her and thus she could bring no further claim against him. He argued that he was entitled to a decree of absolution. Moreover as he was ‘priveliged and had not acted in malice’ he was entitled to absolution with expenses.

Marjory’s lawyer responded that she had only signed the document ‘on the understanding that she was to be substantially recouped’ and ‘in ignorance of the real terms’. In other words, she had been misled.

While Craig’s lawyer demanded discussion on the relevancy of Marjory’s action against his client, the Sherrif ‘thought the action quite relevant’ and Marjory was instructed to appeal to the Court of Session for a jury trial.

In subsequent coverage of what was described as ‘a Dundee Slander Case’ it becomes clear that Marjory and her mother had been coerced into signing an agreement (described as ‘a line’)  to withdraw the claim of damages on condition that the expenses incurred would be paid and ‘promised to recompense her for the injury she had sustained to her feelings’. Marjory and her mother stated that ‘the line referred to … had never been read out to them and they were unaware of its contents’. Mr Murray, the Mill Manager, paid the expenses but ‘informed them that he could do nothing further in the case’. Marjory thus pursued damages through the court as we know. Mr Murray stated through his lawyer that ‘he had acted mainly for the sake of preventing a scandal in the works’, he alleged that he had ‘read over the line in question’ to Marjory, but also admitted that it had been written out by him before Marjory and her mother had arrived.[5] Indeed the Sheriff found that Marjory had signed:

 ‘under persuasion and pressure suddenly applied to her, when she had no opportunity of consulting her law agent or her father, by a person in a position of authority and superintendence over her, a friend of the defender, and who knew little or nothing about the merits of the cause that he pressed her to abandon, except what he had learned from the defender outwith her presence’.[6]

Outcome

In October 1893 the case was settled out of court with Craig granting a letter of apology, paying £25 (£2,051.63 in today’s money) in damages, and paying all the court expenses for all actions.[7]

While the intention of Craig’s original actions remain unclear, Marjory was sufficiently insulted by the insinuation that she was in ‘a pregnant condition’ to pursue him for damages in the Sheriff Court in Dundee. As a young unmarried women, a ‘respectable’ weaver her reputation was obviously important to her and she didn’t want to be gossiped about or humiliated in her workplace on account of being ‘stout’.

Throughout the account of the slander case brought against Craig, his power as her boss is clearly evident, but she challenges this throughout. She is not scared to defend herself.

Whether or not Craig learned from the experience we’ll never know. What we do know is that he retired the following year in 1894 as manager of the powerloom factory at the Dens Works where his long service (40 years) and esteem was celebrated in Maxwelltown Hall by friends and employees. He was presented with a ‘gold albert chain’ and a ‘silver salver’ from the workforce. In his address he discussed the improvements in conditions for the workers over the years suggesting that ‘Formerly 12.5 per cent of the girls were thrown aside in bad health and now only about 3 percent were laid aside’. Paternalism indeed.

Valerie Wright (University of Glasgow)

With grateful thanks to Dr Alexis Wearmouth (School of Business and Management at Queen Mary, University of London) who first sent me the clips relating to the Slander Case while we were colleagues at the Univeristy of Dundee 


[1] ‘Extraordinary Slander Case’ The Evening Telegraph, Wednesday, 8 March 1893, p. 2

[2]V. Wright, ‘Juteopolis and after: women and work in twentieth-century Dundee’. In: Tomlinson, J. and Whatley, C. (eds.) Jute No More: Transforming Dundee. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, 2011, pp. 132-162.

[3] E. Gordon, Women and the Labour Movement in Scotland 1850–1914, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991, especially chapter 4.

[4] Dundee Oral History Project, Oral History Transcripts, Dundee Library – Local History, 1985, 021/A/2:24.

[5] ‘A Dundee Slander Case’, The Dundee Courier & Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Friday, May 19, 1893; pg. 3

[6] ‘A Dundee Slander Case’, The Dundee Courier & Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Friday, May 19, 1893; pg. 3

[7] The Dundee Courier & Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Saturday, October 21, 1893; pg. 4

The history of women’s football in Scotland

Last month to mark the beginning of Euro 2017 Channel 4 screened a documentary about the fascinating history of women’s football entitled ‘When Football Banned Women‘.  In this post Dr Fiona Skillen (Glasgow Caledonian University) tells us more about the history of women’s football in Scotland:

Adapted from F. Skillen, Women, Sport and Modernity in Interwar Britain (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013)

Scotland’s women’s team in 1895

Scotland played a fundamental role in the development of women’s football. Fragmentary evidence suggests that women were playing football as far back as the 16th Century in Scotland. [1] The first international match in the World, was a Scotland women’s international match versus England played in Edinburgh in May 1881.[2] There seems to have been an increase in participation, or at the very least media coverage during the 1880s and 1890s.

Numbers of women playing football increased tremendously during the First World War. Whilst undertaking war work in factories women were encouraged to play football. There are many theories about why women were encouraged to take part in what was considered a ‘man’s game’. One theory is that factory owners and managers wanted to increase women worker’s fitness levels, whilst another is that playing football during their breaks would stop them from causing problems. It is equally possible that the women themselves simply took the opportunity to get involved in a sport which was no doubt familiar to them but in which their active participation was discouraged. Whatever the reason women’s football was popular amongst women in a way that it had never been before and arguably only equaled again in recent years.

This increased participation continued into the interwar period. There is considerable evidence that women played football in the interwar period across Britain. We don’t know exact numbers of women playing football during this period, however there were enough for local teams and even leagues to be formed. Many of these were factory teams which played public matches attracting large crowds in the thousands, raising money for war relief charities. Dick Kerr’s famous women’s factory team played several times in Scotland against local teams and in front of large crowds of spectators during 1920 and 1921.

However, it was these charity matches which have been cited as the game’s downfall. In 1921, the Football Association withdrew all support for women’s football and the subsequent adoption of the policy by the Scottish Football Association ensured that women’s football in Scotland was severely curtailed.[3] The football authorities banned women on the basis that the believed that some of the money from these charity matches was being mis-appropriated. There is no evidence to substantiate these claims.

A later Scottish team – date unknown 

Regardless of the official reasons stated, this step to ban women’s engagement in the game could be seen as a reflection of society’s wider disapproval of women’s playing football. Throughout the interwar period there had been increasing discussions in the press over women’s suitability for the game. Many of the criticisms leveled at women’s early participation in other sports during the nineteenth century were re-asserted in relation to football in this period. It was viewed by some, including members of the medical profession, as too physically demanding, dangerous and unfeminine. This formal ban, representing official disapproval of women’s participation in football, ensured that pressure was put on local clubs to withdraw access to pitches and changing facilities, undermining the ability of many teams to play. McCaig has argued that the problems of access and lack of support, brought about in large part because of these new policies, retarded the development of women’s football in Scotland and it was not until the end of the 1930s that many women’s clubs reformed and sought out non-SFA affiliated pitches to play on.[4]

It was not until 1971 that the SFA ban was overturned and the Scottish Women’s Football Association was established. The first international matches since the ban took place in 1972.

 Toasting a win in the 1970s 

Since the 1970s women’s football in Scotland has continued to grow with Scotland’s women’s national football team qualifying for their first major tournament, Euro 2017.

Women’s football has a long, if relatively under-researched history in Scotland. If you’d like to know a little more why not check out the following links:


For further information why not watch the BBC Alba documentary, Honeyballers

Read more about the roots of Scottish women’s football and the role of Florence Dixie as part of the Dangerous Women Project:

Or visit Stuart Gibb’s touring exhibition ‘Game for Girls’


[1] F. P. Magoun, Jr, ‘Scottish Popular Football, 1424-1815’, The American Historical Review, Vol.37:1, 1931, p.11

[2] F Skillen, Women, Sport and Modernity in Interwar Britain, F Skillen, (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2013), p.190.

[3] Herald (6 December 1921).

[4] F Skillen, Women, Sport and Modernity, p.190.

Finding Margaret Morice

Dr Deborah Simonton, University of Southern Denmark

This blog post first featured on the North American Conference on British Studies website on 10 April 2015 – http://www.nacbs.org/blog/finding-margaret-morice/

Detail from:  Milne, Alexander, fl. 1789-1818, ‘A plan of the City of Aberdeen with all the inclosures surrounding the town to the adjacent country, from a survey taken 1789’, http://maps.nls.uk/towns/rec/311.  ©National Library of Scotland 

I ‘met’ Margaret Morice in 1998. I had just finished writing A History of European Women’s Work.[1] Needing to get into some real primary research and since I was working at Aberdeen University, I asked myself the fairly simple question, ‘What kind of work were women doing in eighteenth-century Aberdeen?’ It was provoked by a number of factors, curiosity not being the least of them.

One of the first steps was a visit to Aberdeen City Archives, one of the best in Scotland. The initial visit was a bit demoralising, because the staff could only suggest the usual finding aids. Undeterred, I trundled through these and found the Register of Apprentices. This produced the first surprise, and was where I first found Margaret. The surprise was that with the exception of one entry for another female baker, she was the only one recorded—but in regular entries, between 1776 and 1797 she traded as ‘Margaret Morice and Co., baker in Aberdeen’.[2] This is notable on a number of levels. The bakers along with the weavers were seen as the most prestigious of the seven Incorporated Trades in Aberdeen and as their historian insisted:

Notably in Aberdeen, the baking of loaf and biscuit bread has been preserved as a strict monopoly for the men bakers. According to the acts and ordinances of the Baker craft in Aberdeen, women were not allowed to bake any bread, pastry, or pies to be sold in the streets or chops, a restriction that was maintained until the abolition of trading privileges in 1846.[3]

She also traded using her married name, when most Scots women kept their family name. She did so, I believe, because it furthered her commercial position as a widow.

Her husband had not been recorded in the Aberdeen Register of Apprentices, which misled me until I discovered that his were recorded in the Inland Revenue Apprenticeship Registers. She, in contrast, appeared only once at Inland Revenue; all of her apprentices followed his death.[4] As a relatively prominent member of the Incorporated Trades, and their Council representative from time to time, he would have paid the stamp duty and ensure that his apprentices were properly recorded. On the one occasion when she did, she had just ended a partnership with a previous apprentice. (She twice entered into such a partnership.) Thus a ‘properly’ registered apprentice may have been essential to retaining the prestige of the business. Over the 30 years that she ran the business herself, she apprenticed 16 boys from the tradesman classes (compared with John’s 12 over 25 years). The apprentice fee and the boys’ terms of service compared well with those for male bakers, including John’s, in Aberdeen, Essex, Birmingham and Staffordshire.[5]

This discovery sent me on a trail, which I followed alongside other research on Gender in European Towns.[6] In fact, I became addicted to finding Margaret Morice. Since there was little business information available in the archives, I turned to the parish records of births, deaths and marriages, available on microfilm in the Local Studies section of the Public Library. Here I found her birth in 1710 (though there is some doubt) and the birth of her seven children, including twins, beginning in 1739 and ending in 1750. Through serendipity, tucked in the back of the Council records, I found a notice of John’s burial in January of 1770, when she was 52. These also noted the death of a ‘child of John Morice’ on a couple of occasions. Thinking laterally, I tried Ancestry.com, and found the death of four of the children at very young ages. The eldest, David, and the female twin, Barbara, have a bigger part to play in her story. The seventh is still AWOL.

Trying a different line of enquiry, I went to the National Archives of Scotland (now National Records of Scotland), hoping for a will or inventory—no luck. I did however find window and inhabited house tax lists, showing her to have paid these through much of the same period that she was taking apprentices. Council Enactment Books added snippets here and there, mostly about John, but clarified that the bakery was well-established, that they owned the property from 1752 and that he was gradually building up a business and political persona. I felt I was coming closer to ‘seeing’ her, but frustratingly still with a great deal of speculation on my side. Through various venues, and thinking outside the box from time to time, gradually her story was becoming more and more visible—but still with gaps and a sense of incompleteness.

A return visit to the Archives, delayed by my move to Denmark, and assisted greatly by a Strathmartine Trust grant, turned out to be an epiphanic experience.[7] On arrival, Fiona Musk, the archivist, simply asked what I was trying to do. Not very optimistically, I told her, and then said flippantly, ‘What I would really like to do is find Margaret Morice’, literally locate her in the town. I knew roughly where the business was but her response, ‘I am sure I have seen her name on a map’, was astonishing after sixteen years of looking. A couple of hours later, she left the search room and returned with a bundle, and there was Margaret, on the plans for the ‘New Street‘ (now Union Street)—in one of the houses to be demolished.[8] And now, I confess, I did a dance in the record office to the amusement of the other four people in the room.

Map of Aberdeen with Margaret’s house marked (2) ©David Hastie

Margaret’s house also features in the image on the cover of The Routledge History Handbook of Gender and the Urban Experience

Furthermore, Fiona pulled up the records of saisine, which previously I had been told would be useless, to unfold the story of the property from John’s purchase to its sale to the Council in 1800. At first perplexed as to who the sellers were, two boys named Abercrombie, through antiquarian books in the Record Office, we identified that they were her grandsons, sons of her daughter Barbara, the second wife of an esteemed clergyman. This bundle corroborated and clarified the narrative of David’s bankruptcy and Margaret’s right to the property.[9] I had simultaneously been trying to read the whole of the Aberdeen Journal for the period, and there, in a notice she placed in 1789, I found her ‘voice’ for the first and only time, ensuring that none of David’s debts were charged to her and asserting her role as baker in Aberdeen.[10] All other mentions of her in the press had been oblique: a partner announcing the end of a partnership, her son asking for a lease for his mother, lawyers asserting her claim to the property. There are other small trails to follow up still, but from piecing together an array of disparate records, we can create a picture of her business, which was clearly long-standing and central to the commercial area of Aberdeen. It was also tolerated by the guild and held its own until near her death. Stories of such women are the bread and butter of our research, they whet our curiosity and through them we see the lives of towns come alive. This tale is not finished, and I intend now to develop it further and use this example with others with less detail to explore how businesses such as this inflect the character of eighteenth-century towns.

This tale of discovery probably replicates many other searches and journeys that other historians make. Our curiosity leads us on, we get ‘addicted’ to finding some answers, not all of which are terribly important. Perseverance and asking the same question, or similar ones, over and over, of the records, or of tangential material and of librarians and archivists is our stock in trade. In an age that prioritises publication—and publication of a particularly designated sort—we must not lose the curiosity and love of the past that drives us; we need to hang on to the wonder and joy of discovery—even with a little dance or two. And we need to keep using our skills, training and insight to solve these little mysteries; they can help solve the big ones.


[1] Deborah Simonton, A History of European Women’s Work, 1700 to the present (London: Routledge, 1998).

[2] Aberdeen City Archives (ACA), Enactment Books, 5. Register of Indentures, 1622-1878, see also Simonton, ‘Margaret Morice’, in The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, eds, Elizabeth L. Ewan, Sue Innes, Sian Reynolds and Rose Pipes (Edinburgh University Press, 2006), 272; Simonton, ’Negotiating the Economy of the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Town’ in Katie Barclay and Deborah Simonton, eds, Women in Eighteenth-century Scotland (Ashgate, 2013), 225.

[3] Ebenezer Bain, Merchant and Craft Guilds, A History of the Aberdeen Incorporated Trades (Aberdeen: 1887), 212.

[4] Great Britain, Public Record Office, Board of Inland Revenue. Apprenticeship Regis­ters, 1710-1808, IR1. For John, volumes for 1743-68; for Margaret, 1788.

[5] Simonton, ‘Education and Training’, 341, 352; see also Joan Lane, Apprenticeship in England, 1600-1914 (London, 1996), 117.

[6] Gender in the European Town, www.sdu.dk/geneton

[7] See the Strathmartine Trust website on support for Scottish research, http://www.strathmartinetrust.org/

[8] ACA, New Street Trustees, CA/10/1/30 South Entry Plan – Castle Street & Narrow Wynd, 1799

[9] Ibid, CA/13/NStT/5-16 Act ordaining David Morrice jnr to dispone his real & personal estate, 1789.

[10] Aberdeen Journal, 20 July 1789.

The Invisible Crofter: Work, Crofting and Highland Masculinity

Dr Elizabeth Ritchie (University of the Highlands and Islands)

I have a favourite set of placemats. They feature old photos of men and women engaged in crofting activities: cutting peat, winnowing corn, manuring fields. Although crofting was a marginal form of part-time agriculture forced on the people, by the mid-nineteenth century the work, and the land, and the embattled culture which came from it were central to the identity of Highlanders. Recognising this, the lenses of academia and government have sharpened their focus on men’s crofting, but to the blurring and near invisibility of their female counterparts, of non-crofting men, and of the other facets of crofting men’s identity.[1]
All images © E. Ritchie

The cultural and political importance of crofting and its association with men suggested to me that it would be a central plank of nineteenth-century Highland masculinity. As I perambulated around dozens of Highland burial grounds, I assumed if I looked for crofters on headstones, I would find an awful lot. I found three. In graveyards, even male crofters are invisible. Instead I encountered hundreds of Highland men who had instead expressed their identity through their families, through a sense of place, through their religion, and through non-crofting work.[2]

The exercise was a salient reminder of the variety of Scotland’s north. On the extensive, low-lying arable of Badenoch and Strathspey commercial agriculture was developed. In those graveyards are many farmers. Upland places, like Laggan and Dunbeath, were transformed into sheep farms then shooting estates. There are buried many shepherds and gamekeepers. On the fertile island of Tiree are farmers, master mariners, ship’s captains and boatmen. The men of small towns practiced a wide range of trades and professions. In the graveyard of Portree, the capital of Skye, repose two ship’s stewards, two merchants, three bankers (one for the National Bank of India), and a fischurer, solicitor, shoemaker, medical practitioner, joiner, weaver, salmon fisher, tailor, butcher, procurator fiscal, and the owner of the Caledonian Hotel.

 Dunbeath

Men of the professional and business classes recorded their expertise and esteem in stone. John Shaw Brown erected a substantial family memorial in Bracadale, Skye. He ensured the inscription mentioned his career as municipal engineer in Burma. It was important to Alexander Mackenzie that his wife’s headstone noted he was an Inverness merchant. Indeed, some stones read like advertisements for the family business. For the middling class of Highland men, professional success and a lifetime of honourable work was core to masculine identity. Donald MacLeay (1783-1868) was ‘45 years forester’; Neil MacLean (1783-1858) was minister of Coll and Tiree for forty nine years; Donald MacLean (1852–1907) was doctor in Garrabost and Stornoway; Donald Fraser (1797-1836) was Agent of the British Fisheries Society in Ullapool; James Kinghorn (1809-61), Ardgay, was an innkeeper; and Murdo MacKenzie (d. 1901) was Invergordon’s bank agent. The Highlands had a middling class, and central to the masculinity of its members was professional commitment and recognition.

But what of the less educated and less privileged? Expense would make it reasonable to find no gravestones for labourers or servants. However there are a few. The stone of James Wilson (1847-1868), a railway surfaceman at Dalwhinnie, was paid for by his fellow workmen. That of Dalwhinnie’s boatman, Donald Kennedy (1814-1881), was erected ‘by a few gentlemen friends’. Occasionally a servant lies beneath an elaborate headstone. These display the master’s munificence as much an honouring the servant. William Anderson (d. 1850) was a ‘faithful servant for twenty five years of James Horne of Langwell and Donald Horne of Langwell Berriedale.’[3] The inscription suggests that, like Stevens the butler in Kazuo Ishigiuro’s The Remains of the Day, Anderson’s entire sense of identity had become bound up in his work.[4] This was particularly the case when the man was foreign, possibly originally a slave. Despite his Scottish name he was ‘a native of the West Indies’. The Highlands had strong connections with the Caribbean slave economy. Anderson’s dates, name and connection with Langwell make it probable he was born into slavery.[5] The employer of another servant, ‘Kopuri Tom’ (d. 1877), knew neither his birth-date nor his real name.[6] He was a ‘Native of the island of Rotumah in the South Pacific Ocean’. Having died at Relugas House, Edinkillie, he was memorialised as ‘the faithful & attached servant of GF Wood Esq’. These men were set apart from other servants by race and nationality.[7] However they thought of themselves, their employers identified them through their exoticism and their excellence as servants.

William Anderson’s headstone overlooks the Berriedale Braes in Caithness.

Most men of lower social classes have no grave marker. In Lewis most nineteenth-century crofters lie in rows, between the tiny head and footstones. Yet poverty does not adequately explain the lack of men describing themselves as crofters on their headstones. After all skilled and semi-skilled men, of a similar social status, appear frequently.


Burial ground at Barvas, Isle of Lewis

Alexander Chisholm (1814-1873) was blacksmith at Glentruim; James Hossack (1808-1896) was gardener at Cluny Castle; William Ross Fraser (1861-1895) was telegraph lineman at Inverness Post Office; Alexander Macqueen (n.d.) was shoemaker at Camustianavaig; William Ross (1794-1876) was carpenter at Alness Moor; John Clark (1820-88) was saddler at Bonar Bridge; Thomas Calder (1797-1870) was lockkeeper at Gairlochy. These ordinary men’s skill, proficiency and place in society were recorded on their headstones.

It is possible some of these men were also crofters. Crofting was specifically designed to require a man to also take on waged work. However if these men were crofter-shoemakers, crofter-blacksmiths and crofter-lockkeepers, crofting was not the work through which they identified themselves for posterity.

I suspect other crofters are invisible due to their piety. Highland Evangelicalism provided formal positions, paid and unpaid, through which ordinary men could exercise religious leadership. These are noted on their stones. Donald MacKay (n.d.); John MacKay (1761-1839); John MacKenzie (d. 1897); and Alasdair (Beag) MacKay (1801-83), were catechists in Kilmuir Easter, Loth, Gairloch and Skerray respectively. Malcolm MacLeod (1837-1897) was missionary in Snizort, Skye. The income from these jobs probably supplemented their croft. Church voluntary roles provided no income but conferred esteem and authority. Alexander MacKay (1808-1865); Alexander Kemp (1806-88); and Donald MacDonald (1829-1899) from Invercharron, Gairloch and Portnaguran were elders. It is likely these men also crofted, but it was their identity as men of faith that was commemorated.

The three men I found who were primarily identified as crofters were Simon Campbell (1820-88), Torgormack, Beauly; George MacKay (1816-73), Bogrow, Edderton; and John Cameron (1815-1880), Upper Achintore, Kilmallie.

The rarity of men being identified on gravestones as crofters gave me pause. My survey demonstrates that what historians have said about nineteenth-century Englishmen and Americans applies to Highlanders: that work was crucial for their sense of masculinity and their public persona. But why, in a region where crofting was culturally, politically and economically important, do men not display this aspect of their self-identity on their gravestones? Several possibilities present themselves.

  1. Perhaps most crofters could not afford a gravestone.
  2. Perhaps in the rural Highlands, crofting was so ubiquitous that recording this on a gravestone was superfluous.
  3. Perhaps crofting was held in lower esteem than a trade. If a man practiced both, his skills as a blacksmith or saddler would be commemorated.
  4. Perhaps for a pious man, honouring his religious faith and service was more important than his few acres and his milk cow.

So, amidst a historiography preoccupied with land and crofting, it is good for a while to leave aside the documents and instead consider what men and their families said about themselves in stone. Their own words, however selective and stylized, remind us that many Highland men were not crofters. They were merchants, innkeepers, railway surfacemen, servants and bank agents. It is impossible to imagine that crofting was not a vital part of the identity of the working men whose photographs are printed on my placemats. But their apparent invisibility in graveyards reminds us that crofting men had a much broader sense of identity than historians have appreciated.


[1] Female crofters, for example, rarely appear as such in government records or in most history books. Despite women frequently running crofts single-handedly, ‘crofter’ is equated with ‘man’. The gendered view of crofters is dissected in Isobel MacPhail, ‘Land, crofting and the Assynt Crofters Trust: A post-colonial geography?’ unpublished PhD, University of Wales (2002), 214-221; Lynn Abrams has also challenged this through her study of Shetland women. Lynn Abrams, Myth and Materiality in a Woman’s World, Shetland 1800-2000, (Manchester University Press, 2005)

[2] The importance of place and of emotional relationships to masculine identity is examined in ‘Place, identity and Dead Men’ 15 February 2017 and ‘A dutiful relative, attached friend and obliging neighbour’ 21 March 2017 respectively. https://historylinksdornoch.wordpress.com/

[3] The military and sheep rearing activities of Donald Horne were described in glowing terms in George Tancred, Annals of a Border Club (Jedburgh, T.S. Small, 1899), 261-263. His evicting activities were recorded by Alexander Gunn in ‘Tales of Braemore’, Northern Ensign in 1879. These are reproduced on the Badbea Families website http://www.badbeafamilies.com/gallery-10.htm (accessed 20 December 2016)

[4] Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day (London, 1989).

[5] David Alston, ‘“Very rapid and splendid fortunes”? Highland Scots in Berbice (Guyana) in the early nineteenth century’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. LXIII (2002-2004), pp. 208-36; S. Karly Kehoe, ‘From the Caribbean to the Scottish Highlands: Charitable Enterprise in the Age of Improvement, c.1750 to c.1820’ Rural History (2016) 27.1, 37–59. The family who leased Langwell, before it was sold to James Horne, were Andersons with multi-generation links to the West Indies. It seems probable he was a mixed-race son. The Hornes bought the estate in 1814. They had also benefited from slavery. In 1836 Donald Horne and his sister Isabella McLeay were awarded £1981 0s 11d compensation as co-trustees for her late husband Kenneth MacLeay when slaves on his plantation in British Guiana were freed. Legacies of British Slave-ownership database https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/8644 (accessed 20 December 2016)

[6] Kopuri is an Indian surname. Rotuma is a Fijian dependency.

[7]. Although not slaves, without local networks their options for changing their occupation or employer were more limited. However, A.S. Cowper notes that Anderson latterly ran the Berriedale Inn. I can find no source for this claim which appears in ‘Burial grounds of Caithness and Sutherland’ Caithness Field Club Bulletin, 3.5 (1983). http://www.caithness.org/caithnessfieldclub/bulletins/1983/april1983/burialgrounds.htm (accessed 20 December 2016). It is not supported by the 1841 census where the proprietors are MacLeods. As early as 1790, Bishop Geddes notes ‘dining at Henderson’s’ in Berriedale. William Anderson, ‘Bishop John Geddes: Journal Ambula Coram Deo, Part Second’, The Innes Review, 6.2, (1955), 140. It is possible Geddes misheard the name but he does not comment on Henderson’s race. This, the early date, and the name suggest this proprietor was not William Anderson. However it is perfectly possible he ran the business sometime between the 1790s and 1841.

40 years of Scottish Women’s Aid – Sarah Browne

We’re delighted to have Sarah Browne blog for us this month. Sarah Browne has been a member of Women’s History Scotland for many years, and won the essay prize in 2008 and completed her PhD on the women’s liberation movement in Scotland in 2009 at the University of Dundee. Sarah now blogs for us in her new role as Heritage Project Co-ordinator for Speaking Out, a project which seeks to produce a history of Scottish Women’s Aid in its 40th year. 

Recognising and Recording the Contribution of Women’s Aid in Scotland

As well as ‘but weren’t they all just bra-burners?’, ‘What about Men’s Aid?’ was the question I was most frequently asked during the time when I was conducting PhD research into the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM). I’ve lost count of the number of times it was asked by taxi drivers, people in pubs, relatives, and friends and strangers who I chatted to during the three years of my PhD. Depending on who was asking this question and the way they asked it, it more often than not raised my heckles.  This wasn’t just because I was completing a women’s history project to contribute towards redressing the balance in historical accounts which tended to favour the stories of men. It was because this question failed to recognise the hard work and determination of the women who created a Women’s Aid network in Scotland. Women’s Aid didn’t just happen. It wasn’t gifted to women by politicians or some kind benefactor. It wasn’t as simple as just asking ‘what about Women’s Aid?’ and then expecting it to happen.  It was hard fought for and involved women putting in huge amounts of energy and effort alongside paid employment, contributing to other political campaigns, and undertaking caring roles for partners, children and relatives. Those women who contributed to this story deserve to be recognised and celebrated and that is why it is so exciting that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded Scottish Women’s Aid, in partnership with Glasgow Women’s Library, Women’s History Scotland and the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Gender History, funding for a two year project to document the history of Women’s Aid in Scotland.

Women’s Aid emerged in Scotland in the early 1970s. Women had been meeting and campaigning as part of the WLM in Scotland, which had emerged in the late 1960s. This movement was a direct challenge to many of the stereotypes, laws and practices which prevented women from living full lives. Campaigning for equal pay, free and available childcare, free and safe abortion, and financial and legal independence amongst many other issues, the WLM was hugely important in politicising a number of women and encouraging them to find practical solutions to some of the issues facing women. Women’s Aid was one such practical solution. In the early 1970s women in Edinburgh and Glasgow formed groups which began researching the practicalities and possibilities of establishing refuges in both cities in order to provide support to women who were living with or leaving violent situations. Inspired by the first refuge in the UK at Chiswick, these women realised that this provided an important model and that women in Scotland needed something similar. By 1977 there were 15 refuges in Scotland and in 1976 Scottish Women’s Aid was set up to help to co-ordinate this emerging network and to provide research, training and support to groups.[i]

Refuges were unfortunately much needed. During the 1970s the prevalence of domestic violence became apparent. Indeed, one of the most important roles of Women’s Aid in Scotland was conducting research which highlighted the incidence of domestic violence. More often than not viewed by many in wider society as a private matter between husband and wife, this research was crucial in demonstrating to politicians, the police, and the general public how prevalent domestic violence actually was. The statistics were eye-watering. Two pioneering researchers based then at Stirling University – Rebecca and Russell Dobash – undertook important work looking at ‘battered wives’ and through interviewing women and looking at police records, they concluded that at the end of the 1970s 25% of all violent crimes involved husbands being violent towards their wives.[ii]

So in addition to organising refuges and the many tasks that were associated with that, Women’s Aid set about providing training and undertaking important educational work to help challenge and change views of those on the frontline – the police, the legal system, the medical profession – as well as the wider public. This led to changes in the way domestic violence was understood and talked about. Even at the level of language, Women’s Aid was central to changing the conceptualisation of this issue, so terminology moved on from ‘battered wives’ to ‘battered women’, and then concepts of domestic violence and domestic abuse were introduced; helping people to realise that domestic abuse was a whole system of degradation, control and fear often expressed in psychological, and not just physical, ways. It is testament to the hard work and courage of all those women involved in the Women’s Aid network that perceptions have shifted. Jennifer Kerr, who was involved with Dundee Women’s Aid, said that our understanding of domestic abuse now includes recognition that:

There are individuals and patterns used by individuals to abuse, that men abuse the power that they have over women. That men abuse the power that they have over children – and that this is wrong and that it is right to get out of those situations. That’s a huge, huge change.[iii]

They did all of this often in the face of opposition from neighbours living next door to refuges, socially conservative politicians who thought Women’s Aid was interfering in relationships, media which often trivialised the issue, and a legal system which could be slow to change. This project hopes to recognise the hard work of the women from the Women’s Aid network but also to draw our attention to the importance of Women’s Aid in transforming our understanding of many aspects of gender relations in Scotland.

So when asked ‘What about Men’s Aid?’, my response usually went something like this: ‘if you want a Men’s Aid, then get together with your friends and comrades and set it up’. That’s what groups of women did in the 1970s and thank goodness they did.

The Project – Speaking Out: Recalling Women’s Aid in Scotland

This project will collect oral history interviews and archival material and make this available on a website. There will also be a touring exhibition and local events so people around Scotland can engage with the themes of the project. If you or someone you know has a connection with Women’s Aid in Scotland at some point during its history and would like to be interviewed then please get in touch with Sarah Browne, project co-ordinator – sarah.browne@scottishwomensaid.org.uk

Likewise if you would like to volunteer for the project then please contact Sarah. We are currently looking for volunteers to conduct oral history interviews, help out with an exhibition or assist with some film-making. Full training will be given and all reasonable expenses will be reimbursed. We are looking for women to volunteer from around Scotland.

It is so important that women’s voices, memories and lives are recorded as all too often they are written out of history. As Elspeth King said:

There is a clear message for all women who were or are involved in the movement: take your historical papers, correspondence, minute books, cuttings and relevant information and deposit them in a Scottish library or archive before it’s too late. Take your T-shirts, your badges, jewellery and posters to your local museum and demand that they be preserved for posterity. Do not be written out of history.[iv]

We look forward to hearing from you!

Twitter – @SpeakingOut_SWA

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Speaking-Out-874547129328378/?fref=ts

[i] K. Arnot, ‘Leaving the Pain Behind: Women’s Aid in Scotland’, S. Henderson and A. Mackay (eds) Grit and Diamonds: Women in Scotland Making History 1980-1990 (Edinburgh, 1990), p. 80.

[ii] This research was discussed in J. Cunningham, ‘The Battered Wives Who Need Law On Their Side’, The Glasgow Herald, 16th February 1979, p. 7

[iii] Transcript of interview with Jennifer Kerr, 1 May 2007, p. 16 as quoted in S. Browne, The Women’s Liberation Movement in Scotland (Manchester, 2014), p. 156.

[iv] E.King ‘Review of J.D. Young’s Women and Popular Struggles’ in S. Henderson and A. Mackay (eds), Grit and Diamonds: Women in Scotland Making History 1980-1990’ (Edinburgh, 1990), p. ix.

 

Women in Scottish Policing: the first 100 years

Louise A. Jackson teaches social history at the University of Edinburgh and is a member of WHS steering committee. She has carried out extensive archival research on the histories of female police officers in the UK, gender and the criminal justice system, and on child abuse and the law.

2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the appointment of the first attested woman police officer in the UK: Edith Smith, who was sworn in with full powers of arrest in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Recent media and TV coverage has done much to highlight her role and significance (including the BBC4 documentary A Fair Cop, broadcast on 15 March 2015). But what of women’s roles in other parts of the UK, including Scotland? Who was the ‘first’ female police officer in Scotland? Much depends on the criteria used to identify female ‘firsts’ in policing. When were women first sworn in? When were they first paid? What was their job title and their role? When did they wear uniforms? When did they gain full powers of arrest? When did they perform the same roles as men?  These questions are clearly shaped by our assumptions about what it means to be a police officer. The quest for female ‘firsts’ demonstrates that women’s venture into policing was a gradual process through which equality was slowly achieved over many decades.

Glasgow Museums holds a photograph of ‘Big Rachel’ Hamilton, previously a forewoman navvy, who was sworn in as a Special Constable during the Partick Riots of 1875.

'Big Rachel'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.theglasgowstory.com/image/?inum=TGSE00317

This clearly pre-dates Edith Smith’s work, although the role of Special Constable was a voluntary or auxiliary one and, until comparatively recently in Scotland, was limited to periods of emergency only. It was common, too, by the late nineteenth century for the wives of policemen, in county areas and small towns, to look after female prisoners and to clean and maintain police station for free, their roles subsumed with that of their husband. In the cities, women were employed as turnkeys and matrons to look after female prisoners in police custody.

In Scotland, as elsewhere in the British Isles, there was an active ‘voluntary patrol’ movement organised by the National Council of Women Workers during the First World War. Patrol groups were set up in Dundee, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hawick, Kirkcaldy, and Leith. Their duties were seen as similar to social work and ‘rescue’ work: the prevention of prostitution, and helping and advising young women and children whom they encountered when they patrolled streets and public places. Women also carried out a significant policing role at HM Gretna Munitions Factory in the years 1916-18, searching women workers as they entered and left the site and making sure that they behaved in an orderly way.

It was in September 1915, however, that Emily Miller was appointed as the first female investigation officer (or ‘lady assistant’) on the payroll of Glasgow City Police. Crucially, she was attached to the Criminal Investigation Office (CID) with a very specific brief: to take statements from women and children in cases of sexual assault and abuse, an area in which she developed highly specialist skills (she later described her role in the evidence she gave to the 1925 Interdepartmental Committee on Sexual Offences against Children in Scotland). It was not until 1919 that she was employed as ‘policewoman’ rather than ‘lady assistant’ (along with Georgina W. McLeod) and she finally gained powers of arrest in 1924.

In Dundee, Glasgow and Aberdeen in 1918 local authorities agreed that women should be admitted to their local police forces in small numbers because they had performed a very valuable role during the war. Indeed, Scotland’s first paid, uniformed, policewoman was Jean Thomson (nee Wright), who was appointed in Dundee in 1918 and served for three years until 1921.

More broadly, though, why does this matter and what does the history of women in Scottish policing tell us about social change? The case of women in policing demonstrates the importance of wartime as a catalyst for changing women’s roles, and acts as barometer for ideas about gender equality in Britain.

The story of women’s progress in policing is crucial to our understanding of the relationship between feminism, women and the state. Edith Smith’s appointment in Grantham was criticised by the Home Office who claimed that women, by virtue of their sex were not ‘proper persons’ (this was the same reason that was given to explain why women could not vote). It was this legal opposition that deterred other towns and cities from following Grantham’s example until the passing of the Sex Disqualification Removal Act in 1919. The same legislation that opened the doors to the first Women MPS also made way for the first women police, women jurors and women lawyers and thus their incorporation into the criminal justice system as representatives of the state and of law and order. In terms of liberal rights, this was as significant as the winning of the vote. Yet it is noteworthy, too, that the arguments that were made by the supporters of the campaign for women police in Scotland (as elsewhere) related to gender difference: women were to undertake work that was gender-specific that related to female and child ‘victims’. From a feminist perspective, this mattered, because it was seen as deeply inappropriate, given that most assaults reported to the police involved male perpetrators, that male officers should be involved in interviewing. It was an argument that was a persuasive one amongst a far wider constituency: women’s role in policing was complementary and they were not there to replace men.

From the perspective of 2015, these arguments have an additional relevance. Given concerns about the lack of an appropriate state response to child sexual abuse cases in recent decades, it is noteworthy that there was a high level of concern and public awareness in the 1920s (culminating in the 1925 Inter-department Committee).  In 1925 the Scottish Office issued an official ‘Circular’ (instruction), urging chief constables to appoint women to take precognitions (statements) from women and children. There was awareness, too, that changes were needed in police methods to encourage higher levels of reporting and to enable higher levels of conviction in the courts.

The number of policewomen in Scotland remained very small across the first half of the twentieth century. By 1928 there were 16 policewomen in Scotland: 11 in Glasgow, 2 in Edinburgh, 2 in Ayr and one in Aberdeen. By 1939 Glasgow’s Policewomen’s Department had expanded to 15 but their role was still defined as a CID role relating to statement taking and the investigation of offences against women and children. Nevertheless they had carried out important work. In 1930, Glasgow businessman Samuel Moorov was convicted of a series of indecent assaults on women, whom he had employed as assistants in his drapery firm. Glasgow policewomen were involved in the investigation of the case, which led to the ruling that single witnesses in individual crimes could be used as mutual corroboration if there was sufficient inter-relationship in time, place and circumstances between incidents. This created an important precedent in terms of Scottish law.

During the Second World War women were recruited into policing as auxiliaries once again. In Glasgow 220 women were employed in this capacity, led by Dr Violet Roberton, magistrate and member of the police committee, as Commandant of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps.

Scotland was given its own female assistant to Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabularies in 1961. This was Janet Gray, who had previously served in Glasgow City Police. An indication of the duties associated with women officers is given in Gray’s inspection report on Dundee’s two policewomen, whom she visited in 1961:

‘They deal with all cases of criminal assault, which are very prevalent, women shop-lifters and observation duty in all its aspects; also all girls who have appeared before a court, and with those whose behaviour has necessitated the parents appealing to the police for advice and help. I was impressed by the work these women are doing in an effort to combat delinquency’.

In Ayr Burgh, policewomen were responsible for checking the shelters on the seafront used as a ‘sleeping quarters’ by girls missing from home. In Inverness County, policewomen’s time was mainly occupied with duties at the ski slopes during ski season, and a high proportion of their cases related to child visitors.

There was a formal marriage bar in place across Scottish police forces until 1968 (although it was lifted in England and Wales in 1946). This meant that women were required to resign upon marriage and most of those who were recruited in the 1950s and 1960s served for only three years or four years. In 1970 the entire Scottish police service still employed only 382 women (less than four per cent of all officers). The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 finally enabled women to be recruited on the same terms and conditions as men. Women were finally incorporated into the same line management structures, undertaking similar work to their male colleagues, for the first time.  Nevertheless challenges remained in relation to cultural attitudes, equal representation and the glass ceiling. Norma Graham became Scotland’s first Chief Constable (of Fife) in 2005; with the creation of Police Scotland in 2013 Rose Fitzpatrick became the most senior female officer as Deputy Chief Constable (with responsibility for local policing). In 2015 women constituted 29 per cent of Police Scotland, suggesting both significant progress and work still to be done in positioning policing as an attractive career for women.

 

 

 

 

 

Centenary of Glasgow Women’s Rent Strikes

 Why commemorate the 1915 Rent Strike?

One hundred years ago women in Glasgow were celebrating securing the Rent Restrictions Act, passed by Lloyd George in December 1915. This followed months of protest against the rent increases they had been subjected to by their landlords which had resulted in a rent strike. Similar strikes were organised in other cities in the UK (See Ann Petrie’s The Rent Strikes: An East Coast Perspective, Abertay Historical Society, 2008). Glasgow’s rent strike has been memorialised, channelled and appropriated by a range of organisations over the years. The Rent Strike is associated with ‘Red Clydeside’ and radical working-class direct action. It is celebrated, and rightly so. 

Rent Strike 1915

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: ‘Glasgow Rent Strikers 1915’ from Scottish Labour History, Vol. 50, 2015 – permission of National Co-operative Archive (image found by Dr Catriona Burness while researching on behalf of the Remember Mary Barbour Campaign).

The story in Glasgow is well known: landlords increase the rents on overcrowded tenements flats in Govan and Partick; profiteering while the men are away fighting, women hold ‘stair heid’ and back court meetings, they band together with direct action i.e. pounding the balliff’s men with flour and other missiles and refusing to let fellow strikers be evicted, the movement grows larger as more women in a variety of areas become involved, the labour movement get in on the action as the campaign becomes more organised and when male workers at munitions factories come out in sympathy on the 17th of November in a mass protest (there were 25,000 rent strikers by this point), Lloyd George passes the Rent Restrictions Act within a month (I’m obviously missing out a lot of detail in this potted history!).

However as the Sheffield Film Co-operative’s documentary ‘Red Skirts on Clydeside’ highlights (http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/890164/) little is actually known about the women involved in the strike. Those of us interested in the history of women in Scotland know about Mary Barbour, Helen Crawfurd and Agnes Dollan (less is known of Jean Ferguson), as these women continued to be involved in left wing politics in the interwar years. But the general public today know little of these women.

Mary Barbour Portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is why the ‘Remember Mary Barbour Campaign’ (https://remembermarybarbour.wordpress.com/mary-barbour-rent-strike-1915/) is so important in raising the profile of a woman who campaigned tirelessly on behalf of working-class women and for improvements to their lives. Dr Catriona Burness has been undertaking further research so we now know a lot more about Mary Barbour and her political career (see C. Burness, ‘Remember Mary Barbour’ Scottish Labour History (http://www.scottishlabourhistory.org.uk/the-journal/), 50 (2015), pp. 81-96). The aim of the campaign is to raise money to erect a statue (the maquettes have been unveiled and are currently on tour around the city) of Mary in Govan as a permanent memorial to her life and work.

In the last few months the Remember Mary Barbour Campaign has been involved with a range of organisations in the ‘Striking Season’ to commemorate the centenary of the Rent Strikes. http://events.glasgowlife.org.uk/event/1/striking-season-mary-barbour-and-the-rent-strikes-of-1915

Striking Season

But while the story of the Rent Strikes has been told (see J. Melling’s book Rent Strikes: People’s Struggle for Housing in West Scotland 1890-1916, Polygon, 1983) we still don’t know enough about the long term effects of the strike and the Rent Restrictions Act. Some questions may never be answered – we might not find the stories of all the un-sung heroines of the strike, the rank and file as opposed to the leaders. It is difficult to capture these voices one hundred years on. But we can analyse in more depth the way in which the memory of the rent strike has been used in other housing protests (see Ewan Gibbs, ‘Civic Scotland versus Communities on Clydeside: poll tax and non-payment c. 1987-1990, Scottish Labour History (http://www.scottishlabourhistory.org.uk/the-journal/), 49, (2014), pp. 86-106). The Rent Restrictions act also had implications on the spread of municipal house building, and housing was a central plank of both Labour Party and Independent Labour Party policy in Glasgow in the interwar years and beyond.

So there were many consequences of the Rent Strike both in the immediate aftermath, subsequent decades and for today. This is the reason why, way back in February of this year, following the successful event at the University of Edinburgh ‘Women’s Movements in Scotland: From Enfranchisement to the Referendum’ we decided that we really should organise an event to both commemorate the Rent Strike of 1915 and to ask what can be learned from this action today.

Rent Strike Procession

Source: Melling, Rent Strikes, p. 98

We held this event exactly one hundred years to the day of the ‘Great Public Procession and Demonstration’ in Maxwell Park, Govan on the 27th of November, which was organised to demand the repayment of all rent increases from the start of the war. So the fight for fair rents and municipal housing did not stop with the passing of the Rent Restrictions Act.

‘Learning from the 1915 Rent Strikes: Women’s role in housing disputes in Scotland c. 1915 to the present’ was held at Glasgow Women’s Library in Bridgeton, an excellent location for the discussion of women’s history and involvement in campaigning and we were lucky to have generous funding from the Economic History Society.

The day provided, in an informal context, an opportunity for historians and activists involved in current and recent housing disputes to reflect on the consequences of the Rent Strike and the lessons we can learn today. Has women’s position in housing changed much in one hundred years? Following the boom in municipal housing provision in the post war years, with stable tenancies and good housing conditions, at least initially, there is little in the way of ‘social housing’ left in Glasgow today. Now many women are suffering the effects of precarious housing in the private sector where rents can be increased monthly.

We are hoping to post some photos of the event and audio recordings of some of the papers on the WHS website – watch this space!

 

Dr Valerie Wright, Research Associate, Housing, Everyday Life and Wellbeing 1950-1975

 

 

 

 

 

February 2015 – Guest Blogger Katie Hunter

After a brief hiatus, the Guest Blogs return in 2015! This month, we welcome the Steering Committee’s resident history teacher, Katie Hunter. Having contributed to and particpated in an event for school history pupils partly organised by Women’s History Scotland, Katie tells us more about this event and the benefits it has had for her pupils. The resources produced by WHS which Katie mentions continue to be available on this website for use by teachers and pupils.

In November 2013 WHS held Women, The Great War and The Vote, in association with Previously, Scotland’s History Festival and the University of Edinburgh.

The purpose of this mini-conference for schools was to assist students and teachers in their preparation for two Highers’ papers: the ‘sources’ paper on the Great War; and the essay paper ‘Rise of Democracy 1860-1918’. The event centred on the question ‘Why did some women get the vote in 1918?

Leading academics on the Scottish context: Louise Jackson, Wendy Ugolini, Esther Breitenbach, and Sarah Pedersen gave presentations. You can find a rich array of the resources they produced for pupils here.

Attached to the event was an essay prize, sponsored by Edinburgh University Press. The winner, Sean Stout, powerfully argued against the premise ‘Women received the vote in 1918 as a result of their contributions to war work’, in his prize winning essay for WHS. The essay started by sketching out the positions of various modern historians. He demonstrated a confidence in handling the core debate beyond the familiar range of ‘the textbook’. He then set up his own argument by suggesting that the ‘view that the war culminated in votes for women may well have been tactfully used by the government’ – touching on reasons why causality in this instance mattered at the time, and still matters. Sean’s final stance, as you’ll read, was to put the 1917 decision back in its context of long term political change. I know this will delight Dr Esther Breitenbach, who had generously created a detailed timeline intended to provoke these very conclusions!

An extract from Sean’s essay is provided below this blog post. Sean has gone on to study History at Advanced Higher and intends to pursue his studies at university. He was much encouraged by his prize success.

We know these resources will encourage many other Higher pupils to go beyond dipping their toes in the topic – and to really enjoy wading in deep to the arguments surrounding women’s enfranchisement.

The talking heads you will find in the Resources section present a pain free entry point to exploring the competing and complementary factors, and will give essay writers the confidence to develop arguments. Our hope is that this takes not only brings pupils exam success, but takes them further towards enjoying handling the historical nitty gritty for its own sake.

Katie Hunter
History Teacher

Introduction to Sean Stout’s First Prize Essay:

‘The Nation Thanks the Women.’ This was the phrase sprawled across billboards throughout Britain in 1918 following the Representation of the People Act, which integrated certain women over thirty into the franchise. The government produced these posters as if to say that the contributions of women to war work had secured them the right to vote. Indeed, the act passed easily with a majority consensus of 385 for, as opposed to the 55 against. Many historians have proposed differing arguments as to why women received the vote in 1918, some such as Constance Rover and Arthur Marwick agreeing that the war was a central factor behind the enfranchisement, while others like Paula Bartley focusing on the political situation as a whole and the changes that occurred over time. Bartley is in fact one to contest this idea that war acted as a turning point, saying, ‘it would be naive to believe that women received the vote solely for services rendered in the First World War.’ In addition, the importance of the suffrage movement has been the focus of historians such as June Purvis, who argue it paved the way for the enfranchisement and determined the nature of the legislation in 1918. Social and economic changes were also occurring at the time, which allowed women to become more involved and accepted within society, thus it seemed they were now eligible for the vote.

 

Sean has also contributed the following for inclusion in the WHS Blog.

The Women’s History Scotland conference at Edinburgh University was a very useful aid in my Higher history studies. It was interesting to hear the academics present different interpretations concerning female suffrage in Britain, which then encouraged me to undertake further research into historiographical debate. This, combined with the resources provided, gave me a much better understanding of the female enfranchisement topic, and certainly enhanced my final extended essay piece that was submitted to SQA for the Higher exam.

Having won the essay competition organised by WHS, I was fortunate to meet with Dr Wendy Ugolini who answered my questions on studying history at university, and gave me valuable feedback on the piece I’d written. (I also received a rare copy of the Edinburgh University Press book, ‘A Military History of Scotland’, for which I am very grateful.)

Overall the event developed my essay-writing confidence, introducing me to historiographical debate and improving my ability to formulate an argument with sufficient evidence and analysis. I intend to study history at university and would like to thank WHS for organising such a beneficial conference.

October 2014 – Guest Blogger Linda Fleming

Linda Fleming is a long-time committee member of Women’s History Scotland. She is co-editor, with Esther Brietenbach, Karly Kehoe and Lesley Orr, of Scottish Women: A Documentary History, 1780-1914 (Edinburgh University Press, 2013). At present, she is working as a research associate based at Glasgow University on a 3-year AHRC funded research project called The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain 1905- 2016.

http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/

 

I’m a lucky person because I get paid to exploit my nosiness instinct! My job as a research associate has taken me into many wee nooks and crannies of the past that others have overlooked. At the moment, I’m working on a fascinating project called the Redress of the Past, which is looking at the phenomenon of historical pageants in the last century. And by phenomenon I am not overstating as there were countless numbers of these events from 1905 onwards. This means that I get to visit libraries big and small, as well as archives, museums and galleries all over this land, looking at amazing documents, photos and all kinds of ephemera, which have so far escaped much notice from historians. It’s a three year project, but there were so many pageants that running out of time may be a constant battle.

Twentieth-century Britain was subject to regular bouts of ‘pageant fever’ when communities across the land threw themselves into staging theatrical re-enactments of historical events. These performances were once hugely popular and could attract audiences of thousands of spectators. My main remit within a larger project team is to examine those historical pageants that took place specifically in Scotland and in the north of England. So far, it’s looking like the winner of the earliest Scottish theatrical pageant goes up north to the city of Aberdeen (run by the Northern Arts Club in 1908). But many pageants were held in small towns and villages as well as in major centres of populations. Indeed some of the small events are among the most interesting because they reveal so much about the ways that even tiny, remote places took ownership of their past .

The lack of attention to modern historical pageantry is surprising really, because as this research undoubtedly shows, these events offer important insights into many aspects of how the past is remembered. Perhaps most notable of all in pageant enactments is the interaction that can be seen between local, national and imperial identities. And especially where the smaller events are concerned, a lot can be learned about the character of community life and the role played then and now by heritage in shaping views of places and their peoples. Pageants reveal a lot about who and what featured in popular historical consciousness and how these memories were shaped at different points during the 20th century.

AYRSHIRE1934_SCOTIA AYRSHIRE1934_SPIRIT

 

Women were nearly always active participants in pageants and they could play prominent roles as organisers, writers and performers. Sometimes they took lead roles, for example, here’s a couple of women pageant performers from the 1934 Pageant of Ayrshire playing the parts of ‘Scotia in Chains’ clearly an allegorical role and ‘The Spirit of Ayrshire’. The ‘Spirit’ was the commentator on all of the historical action of the pageant and so was the main woman of the piece. Yet even more often, though the work they did was essential and skilled, women worked behind the scenes. It’ll come as no surprise I expect, that most costumes (and in these photos we can see that these could be elaborate!) were made by women. The expertise and labour needed to clothe hundreds of performers in historically accurate dress needed an army of seamstresses and the team of women who got together to meet this task would have had to form an organised and focussed workforce. Women in the places where pageants took place often volunteered as individuals once a call had gone out for help, but even more regularly, they were approached as members of established women’s organisations. The WRIs for example were pageant superstars! And there were many others: from local branches of the British Housewives’ Association to the Girl Guides.

My most recent foray into the archives has been focussed on the pageant capital, not just of Scotland, but also of the UK… Most people when asked cannot guess where this might have been, and if they do, they usually get it wrong!  It is none other than ARBROATH (looks like the northeast are cleaning up the prizes here!) This seaside town in Angus held no less than 18 pageants at intervals from 1947 onwards. The gender dimensions of this group of performances are particularly illuminating because, at least in the early years, there were hardly any women on either the pageant committee or taking an acting part in the main theatrical scene, which imaginatively recreated the signing of the Declaration of Scottish Independence in 1320. In press reports therefore, men hog most of the limelight…But just occasionally getting a short vote of thanks in such articles were the hundreds of Arbroath townswomen who acted busily behind the scenes and without whom the pageant would have foundered.

Where women were on show however, was in a popular auxiliary element of the Arbroath pageant ‘gala’ weeks that took place. This was the pageant procession, which usually took place on the Saturday afternoon towards the end of the week’s events and before the final performance of the pageant, and which regularly formed a mile-long parade that made its way through the town. This was the most accessible part of the pageant week and it’s clear women had some fun with it.

Here’s some examples of the scenes women choose to portray in tableau form within the procession of 1948: the story of Black Agnes was re-enacted by the Arbroath Branch of the British Housewives’ Association. The Rescue of the Crown Jewels from Dunnottar Castle in 1652 was played by the Arbroath Branch of the British Legion Women’s League, and Arbroath Business and Professional Women’s Club chose to stage a scene named Women–Then and Now (which I would love to have seen!).

This is to name only a few, for women were just as in evidence as men, for the parade at least. Arbroath Fisherwomen also took part as did one lone performer, a ‘Miss Bowman’ who anticipated Dame Judi and took on the role of Queen Victoria!

 

There’s one more woman I’d like to mention in respect of the Arbroath pageants in particular and this was Agnes Mure Mackenzie to show that women’s work was not always along gender stereotypical lines. Often described as ‘a great friend’ of the Arbroath pageants it was this female scholar who produced a new translation from the original Latin of the Declaration of Independence. This, I believe, was likely commissioned for Arbroath; and for many years, it was read out as part of the pageant. I’m pleased to say that Dr Mackenzie is included in the entries within the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (p.229) where it states that her work ‘has been unduly overlooked’. How very true… and also true of most of the women who worked hard the length and breadth of Britain to make these community entertainments happen. In engaging with this study, I will try to make sure that wherever I find them, they do get a moment in the limelight of the research.

 

If anyone reading this has any information to share about women and historical pageantry in the UK, I’d love to hear from you because nosy as I am, and great as the official archives’ catalogues sometimes are, a lot of material about pageants is very ephemeral and survives only in collections of personal papers and memorabilia. Needless to say, it can be even harder to find material on the women involved.  Just reply to this blog or drop me an email! Thanks.

Linda.fleming@glasgow.ac.uk

 

Images are reproduced with the kind permission of the local studies section in the Carnegie Library, Ayr. This is one of the many libraries who have given invaluable assistance with pageant research.