WHS Essay Prize 2016 – *Winner Announcement*

We are pleased to announce the winner of the WHS Leah Leneman Essay Prize for 2016 is Theresa Mackay (pictured below), who recently completed an MLitt in Highlands and Islands History at the University of the Highlands and Islands, supervised by Dr Elizabeth Ritchie. The competition again saw strong competition and we would like to thank the applicants for providing an interesting range of essays for the judges to consider.

Theresa won with an accomplished essay entitled: ‘Women at work: Innkeeping in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, 1790-1840’. 

The judges write: This is a very finished piece of work which was professionally presented and clearly written. It draws on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, including private correspondence, travel memoirs, guidebooks, newspaper advertisements and even archaeological excavations. It is well illustrated with maps, paintings and photographs and provides some good quotations from the innkeepers’ guests, which helps us to ‘get inside’ this potentially difficult topic. As the author points out, less is known about the rural world, and this sits well with work on urban women and to some extent may inspire further work in the area. The case is well made for the importance of female innkeepers as entrepreneurs who laid the foundations for the tourism industry in the Highlands and Islands after 1840. On balance, this is an entertaining and instructive essay, and fully merits the award of the Essay Prize.

We would like to congratulate Theresa for her interesting and thought-provoking work, and hope to see her essay published in due course.

We are delighted that Theresa’s research has already recently featured on the BBC news website – ‘The ‘tough, entrepreneurial women’ who ran Highland inns‘.

In the Scotsman:

The 19th Century Highland inn – and the “peacekeeping” women behind the bar

and on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour (at around 34:45 minutes in):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08dmknp

Great coverage for Theresa’s work and for Women’s History Scotland!

WHS members might like to know that several previous Leah Leneman prize essays have been published in the Journal of Scottish Historical Studies.

The next competition will be in 2018, with a deadline in December.

 

WHS Annual Conference 2016- ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas & Practice’ – Report and Resources

[Images: top right © Scottish Women’s Aid Archive at Glasgow Women’s Library, bottom right © University of Glasgow Archive Services, DC127/22a]

Women’s History Scotland Annual Conference: ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas & Practice’

[Please see the ‘Resources‘ section below for access to some of the powerpoint presentations from the day and link to the audio on Soundcloud]

Conference Report – Hannah Telling

The annual WHS conference which examined the theme of ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas & Practice’, was held on Friday 9 September. Glasgow Women’s Library, recently lauded in the national press as ‘a treasure trove that shows how far feminism has come’, served as a fitting venue for this year’s event. At the completely sold out conference, delegates were treated to a host of wonderful papers, with themes ranging from the emergence of Women’s Aid to the feminist fashion of Doc Martens. The event concluded with the Sue Innes Memorial Lecture, delivered by the inimitable and inspiring Zoe Fairbairns.

After an introduction to Women’s History Scotland delivered by convenor Alison McCall, Tanya Cheadle delivered a paper on the late nineteenth-century feminist and socialist activist, Bella Pearce. Tanya’s paper talked of the ‘uneasy relationship between socialism and feminism in the 1890s’, as feminist social reformers attempted to navigate labour parties that were ‘first and foremost a man’s party’. Pearce’s feminist activism contrasted, in a perhaps unique example, with her unconventional faith. She became a devout disciple of a Christian sexual mysticism organisation, the Brotherhood of New Life, whose founder espoused the doctrine that ‘by denying sexuality, Christianity becomes sterile’. Tanya’s paper provided a fascinating insight into the relationships, activism and faith of one feminist reformer in late nineteenth-century Scotland.

Jane Rendall was next to deliver her paper, exploring female friendly societies in Scotland, c.1789-1830 and ‘the principle of Mutual Support’. Jane began her talk by discussing the role of ritual-based, religious and philanthropic societies and their growth in this period. Interestingly, whilst Jane had detected 1560 male friendly societies, only 66 female equivalents were discovered. These female friendly societies were concentrated in South West Scotland and were noticeably absent from the urban centres where the strength and influence of male trade predominated. Despite the limited number of female friendly societies, Jane revealed how such organisations helped to consolidate neighbourhood ties, provide recognition of women’s identities and allow members of all classes new experiences and opportunities.

Sarah Browne of the ‘Speaking Out’ project presented the final paper of the ‘Activism’ panel, examining the links between feminism and Women’s Aid in the 1970s and 1980s. Women’s Aid, which campaigned to end domestic abuse and assisted women seeking to escape abusive partners, emerged out of and became a testimony to the Women’s Liberation Movement. Sarah talked of how attention to the ‘Herstory of Women’s Aid’ allowed for a reclamation of women’s pasts, whilst providing opportunities for reflection on what had been achieved and what still needed to be done. Sarah reinforced the central tenet of Women’s Aid and indeed feminism – that the abuse of women was (and still is) central to women’s unequal position within society. In concluding, Sarah emphasised that whilst Women’s Aid is ‘always moving forwards’, the organisation’s roots in the Women’s Liberation Movement will continue to be acknowledged.

Georgia Mackay opened up the second panel on ‘Material and Visual Culture’ with a wonderful paper on Doc Martens and feminism. Georgia pointed out that Cinderella teaches us that ‘one shoe can change your life’, yet asked what happened when women rejected ‘overtly sexual’ sky-high heels for ‘kick ass heavy boots’, the Doc Martens. In a paper that explored the links between fashion and feminist subculture, Georgia explored the history of Doc Martens, whilst reinforcing the idea that ‘any item of clothing can be feminist if intended so by the wearer’.

Nel Whiting concluded the morning session with a paper that applied feminist methodology to portraiture, unearthing the subtle gender dynamics of David Allan’s The Family of the Earl & Countess of Hopetoun. Nel’s application of gender theory and close analysis revealed implicit power relations contained within the portrait. Nel argued that artwork reflected and replicated contemporary values and thus formed a key part of society’s discursive network, thereby demonstrates how analysing portraiture can be of great use to the researcher of eighteenth-century gender relations.

The editors of the 2nd edition of the ‘Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women’ gave an update on their progress after lunch, informing delegates that the volume will include 150 new entries of notable women throughout Scottish history.

In keeping with the theme of ‘Biographies’, Sarah Edwards delivered a paper on Dr Dorothy Meads, the principal of Bishop Otterly College. The paper included a history of the college itself, from teacher-training college to RAF base during World War II. Sarah talked about Dr Meads’ reforms and how she embodied the contemporary conceptualisation of female principal in this period – an amalgamation of feminine nurturer and masculine protector exhibiting quasi-parental control over the female students.

In the final paper of the day, Susan Batchelor presented an examination of the life and influence of Pearl Jephcott, whose pioneering sociological research privileged the experiences of ordinary young people in detailed and broad-ranging analyses. Susan showed how Jephcott utilised 1960s sociological approaches, yet also foreshadowed later developments, especially in the form of feminist epistemology in the 1980s. Susan concluded that ‘Jephcott was a sociology research pioneer, yet also a feminist research pioneer’.

The annual Sue Innes Memorial Lecture was delivered by Zoe Fairbairns, who began her lecture by thanking those who have worked so hard to keep Sue Innes’ name alive. Zoe’s wonderful lecture explored ‘Five Decades, Five Feminisms’, demonstrating the many developments that have been made in the pursuit of gender equality. Zoe took the enraptured audience through each decade, from the 1960s when feminism was yet to be named, to the challenges of the new millennium – terrorism, anti-feminist backlashes, the dangers of the internet-age and the continued prevalence of violence against women and children. Despite the work still to be done, Zoe’s lecture was ultimately celebratory. She said that ‘I would say that a lot has changed for the better, and that we, as feminists, should congratulate ourselves for our part in that’. Zoe cited greater representation of women in politics, the successful introduction of equal marriage, women in well-paid employment and men engaging in domestic duties as examples of the many developments achieved through five decades of activism and feminism. To rousing applause, Zoe concluded her lecture, and the WHS annual conference, using Sue Innes’ own words – ‘let’s go on making it work’. 


Resources

For those of you who couldn’t join us – click the relevant links below to access powerpoint presentations from some of the presentations on the day and the audio recordings on Soundcloud

PANEL 1: Activism

Tanya Cheadle, University of Glasgow – Bella Pearce / ‘Lily Bell’: Glasgow Feminist, Socialist and Christian Sexual Mystic – whn-glasgow-pp

Jane Rendall, University of York – ‘The principle of mutual support’: female friendly societies in Scotland c. 1789-1830 – rendall-glasgow

Sarah Browne, Heritage Project Co-ordinator, Scottish Women’s Aid – ‘Pledging our support to the seven demands of the Women’s Liberation Movement’: Feminism and the emergence of Women’s Aid in the 1970s and 1980s – brownewhspresentation

PANEL 2: Material/ Visual Culture

Georgia Mackay, University of Glasgow – The End of High Heels? Doc Martens and Feminism in the late 20th Century – the-end-of-high-heels

Nel Whiting, University of Dundee – A ‘voyeuristic fiction of candour’? Feminist Methodology and Portraiture 

PANEL 3: Biographies

Sarah Edwards, University of Strathclyde – Dr Meads and her wartime flock: the history and representation of Bishop Otter College at Bromley, 1942-45

Susan Batchelor, University of Glasgow – Pearl Jephcott and a Time of One’s Own – revisiting-jephcott-whs-conference-sb-080916

SUE INNES MEMORIAL LECTURE:

Zoë Fairbairns, Five Decades, Five Feminisms – http://www.zoefairbairns.co.uk/Sue_Innes_Memorial.pdf

Less than two days to go – WHS Annual Conference – ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas and Practice’, Glasgow Women’s Library, Friday 9 September

With less than two days to go until our fully booked conference at Glasgow Women’s Library on Friday (7th of September), we’re in full swing with the preparations!

Our new publicity postcards arrived today and all the final preparations will be completed tomorrow.

The event is fully booked and we’ve been overwhelmed by the response.

Hopefully you’ll already have registered and we’ll see you on Friday!

The event is free but donations are encouraged. 

To join WHS please click here

Here’s the full programme for the event for those attending – whs-final-feminisms-conference-programme.

If you can’t make it we’ll be tweeting @womenshistscot #whsfeminisms

Watch this space for a report on the conference.

***REGISTRATION OPEN*** WHS Annual Conference – ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas and Practice’, Glasgow Women’s Library, Friday 9 September

Images: top right © Scottish Women’s Aid Archive at Glasgow Women’s Library, bottom right © University of Glasgow Archive Services, DC127/22a

Women’s History Scotland are delighted to invite you to our annual conference – ‘Feminisms: Histories, Ideas & Practices’. We have a very exciting line-up of speakers exploring wide-ranging themes including feminist activism, material and visual cultures, and biographies.

Full programme – WHS feminisms conference programme

This year’s Sue Innes Memorial Lecture will be delivered at the conference by Zoe Fairbairns, entitled ‘Five Decades, Five Feminisms’.

Zoë Fairbairns first encountered the words ‘women’s’, ‘liberation’ and ‘movement’ side by side in the same phrase in 1969.  She was in the USA at the time, but couldn’t wait to hurry back to St Andrews University (from which she was taking a year out) and set up something similar. By the time she got back, feminism had already arrived. Together with fellow-student Sue Innes, and others, Zoë became a founder-member of the St Andrews University Women’s Liberation group.

Zoë is a novelist, short story writer, journalist and playwright. Her books include Benefits, Closing and Other Names. She co-authored the pamphlet ‘Saying What We Want:  Women’s Demands in the Feminist Seventies and Now’. She is a member of the Women’s Equality Party and the Fawcett Society, and is a Friend of the Feminist Library. She also meets regularly with a group of other women who were active as feminists in the 1970s and who want to continue raising their consciousness. She teaches creative writing at the City Lit in London, where she lives. Her website is at www.zoefairbairns.co.uk

The conference will be held at Glasgow Women’s Library. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Women’s History Scotland have decided to make this year’s conference as accessible as possible and so will not be charging a fee for attendance, but instead suggesting a donation to WHS on the day if attendees are willing/ able. All are very welcome and we look forward to seeing you on the 9th September!

REGISTER FOR FREE via eventbrite – ‘WHS Annual Conference: Feminisms, Histories, Ideas & Practices’

Any queries can be sent to whsconference2016@gmail.com.

Leah Leneman Essay Prize 2016

The 2016 Leah Leneman Essay Prize competition for an essay in Scottish women’s or gender history is now open!

Full details are available on the poster below. Any questions about the competition and the prize should be directed to Deborah Simonton at dsimonton[at]sdu.dk. The deadline for entries is Monday the 16th of December 2016.

Please spread the word!

WHS Essay Prize 2016 Poster

Good luck to all who enter!

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

 

 

 

 

 

WHS Annual Conference – Registration

Registration for the Annual Conference in Aberdeen is now open.
Details of the programme, conference fee and how to register is below. The Sue Innes Memorial Lecture is free.

Saturday 31 October 2015
St Nicholas Room, Town House, Aberdeen

Tea & coffee will be available in the St Nicholas Room from 11am.

11.45: Lindy Moore ‘On Creating the Kingdom of God on Earth: the Spirituality of Isabella Fyvie Mayo’.

12.05 : Elizabeth Ritchie ‘Isabella Fraser Sage – Life as a Minister’s Wife in the C18th Highlands

12.30: Women’s Heritage Walk, organised by volunteers from Aberdeen Women’s Alliance walk group. This starts and finishes at the Town House.

1.15: Lunch break – Please note there are a range of options for eating close to the Town House

There will be a small bookstall.

2.00: The Sue Innes Memorial Lecture, Lesley Orr – “To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in church and nation in 20thC Scotland

WHS AGM

Cost: £20 for the whole event. The Sue Innes Memorial Lecture is free.

To register, or for further details, please contact Alison McCall: womenshistoryscotland@gmail.com

International Women’s Day

Modern Votes for Women PinHappy International Women’s Day!

Here are some interesting links from around the interwebs:

 

 

 

 

 

The history of International Women’s Day

http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.VPxHOHysWSp

http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/iwd/history.html

Events celebrating International Women’s Day

http://womenslibrary.org.uk/event/march-of-women/ (This event has passed, but members of WHS were present – hopefully GWL will post pics from the event soon!)

Why International Women’s Day is needed

http://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2015/mar/08/no-need-for-international-womens-day-what-world-do-you-live-in

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/08/emily-thornberry-equal-pay-act-overhaul?CMP=fb_gu

The status of women and women’s and gender history in academia

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/gender-bias-rife-in-history-departments-says-report/2018937.article

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/feb/24/sexism-women-in-university-academics-feminism

Feel free to post other relevant links in the comments section!

What are your hopes for International Women’s Day 2015? How will you celebrate?

 

 

Women’s History Scotland Leah Leneman Essay Prize 2014 – Results!

Women’s History Scotland Leah Leneman Essay Prize 2014

 

We are pleased to announce the winner and runner-up of the Leah Leneman Essay Prize for 2014. The winner is Alice Glaze, University of Guelph, with Lin Cunningham, University of Glasgow, as runner-up. The competition again saw a very strong competition and we would like to thank all the applicants for providing such a rich and interesting array for the judges to consider.

 

Alice Glaze’s essay, ‘Women and Kirk Discipline: Prosecution, Negotiation and the Limits of Control’, is an interesting, well-crafted essay. It is clearly and elegantly written and professionally presented. The research questions and historiography are handled well, and in a nuanced sophisticated way, while the author presents sufficient context and background for a non-specialist in a professional and clear manner. Exemplary cases are used to good end, to support her arguments. An extensive bibliography demonstrates the extent and depth of the author’s reading. The central argument about the ambiguous nature of the control exercised by the Reformed Kirk over women and their bodies is well worked out, making effective use of some difficult source material.

 

Lin Cunningham’s essay, ‘Independent, Skilled and Enterprising Women in Business: The Dressmakers of Nineteenth-Century Glasgow’, draws on the renewed interest in women’s work and especially the position of businesswomen. This is a wide-ranging piece that deals effectively with a complex topic. Good use is made of a case study of the five MacFarlane sisters to illustrate various issues and changes during the century are well charted. A section on ‘defining success’ is particularly thoughtful. It is a well-written engaging and well-researched essay. The use of records and research is very good and her understanding of the period, historiography and issues is also admirable.

 

We would like to congratulate both Alice and Lin for their interesting and thought-provoking work, and hope to see both of these pieces published in due course. WHS members might like to know that several previous Leah Leneman prize essays have been published in the Journal of Scottish Historical Studies. The next competition will be in 2016, with a deadline in December.