Out Gallivanting – Conversation Café and Civic Reception

Aberdeen Women’s Alliance held their third Women’s History Conversation Café on Saturday 3rd March in the Town House restaurant.  The topic was the suffragette campaign as described in the Watt archive (the correspondence of suffragette Caroline Phillips).

I was one of the table hosts. There were seven tables, each with a table host and five attendees.  Fears that the severe weather might affect attendance proved unfounded.

The session started with a talk by Prof. Sarah Pedersen. Each attendee had been given a copy of her book on Caroline Phillips, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Each table then examined and discussed items from the archive. These had been photocopied and laminated, with discussion topics printed on the back of each item.  Everyone was fascinated by the selection of items and an hour just wasn’t long enough to discuss them all.  Sarah then concluded the café with a further talk detailing events after Caroline Phillips ceased to be the Honorary Secretary of Aberdeen W.S.P.U.

After the Café, Aberdeen City Council hosted a Civic Reception in the Town and County Hall.  As I was driving I stuck to orange juice, but I didn’t stint myself on the canapes!  There were speeches by Lord Provost Barney Crockett, and Sarah Pedersen.  Best of all were the animated discussions all over the room as people discussed women’s history and politics, with women fired up and enthused by what they had heard and read.  The pile of WHS postcards disappeared quickly.

Alison McCall


#Vote100 – 100 years ago some women got the vote

Today the 6th of February marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act of 1918 which resulted in the partial enfranchisement of some women in the UK.

Banner from the Gude Cause march commemorating the suffrage procession of 1909 in Edinburgh © Fiona Skillen (banner made by F. Skillen and V. Wright)

Here at Women’s History Scotland we’ve been busy working away on our suffrage learning resource which will be launched as part of Dundee Women’s Festival on 10 March. 

But in the meantime here’s a brief (and selective!) round up of celebrations here in Scotland and beyond:

(Follow the whole thread of Lesley’s tweets)

Also see the The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women for details of suffrage campaigners both militant and constitutional in Scotland.

Here’s a great resource from the National Library of Scotland – an excellent place to research Scotland’s suffrage history:

And don’t forget our own ‘Resources for Schools: Women, the Great War, and the Vote

The OU are also commemorating suffrage with this excellent resource:


And also see the free access centenary collection from Women’s History Review

Finally, and importantly, here are some links to important historical correctives and analysis from Dr Sumita Mukherjee:


Valerie Wright (University of Glasgow)


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]


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

Sue Innes Memorial Lecture 2017 – Listen now!

Lesley starting her lecture © E. McCrae

On Thursday night (19 October) we were very lucky to have Lesley Orr giving this year’s Sue Innes Memorial Lecture entitled –“To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in Scottish church and nation, c.1918 – 1945′. The lecture was co-hosted by the University of Edinburgh Centre for Theology and Public Issues at New College, University of Edinburgh.

Lesley was a close friend of Sue’s as were many in attendance. Sue’s work as an activist, journalist and historian continues to inspire historians of women and gender in Scotland and it was fascinating to see the influence that Sue’s work on citizenship and feminism has had on Lesley’s own research on women’s demands for equality in the ministry of the church in the interwar years and beyond.

Sue’s work on the Edinburgh Women’s Citizenship Association has been particularly influential on my own work on women’s organisations and interwar feminism in Scotland. However, I hadn’t really considered the role that the church had played in the lives of so many of the leaders of feminist organisations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, even thought I was obviously aware of the links between church women’s guilds and the women’s citizens associations. I had completely taken it for granted that women who were influential in the overtly feminist and largely middle-class women’s organisations in urban Scotland would be ‘respectable’ church-going women, but hadn’t thought of how their Christianity shaped their feminism. Lesley certainly has given me a lot to think about!

I particularly enjoyed learning more about Euphemia Somerville, Eunice Murray and especially Vera Kenmure (Findlay) who became the first official female minister in Partick in 1928 and later established her own church as well as being a figure head in Glasgow for women’s equality.

(There are entries on each in The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women if you’d like to find out more)

Don’t worry if you missed Lesley’s lecture you can catch up on Soundcloud by clicking on the following:

Valerie Wright  (University of Glasgow)

*** Sue Innes Memorial Lecture 2017 *** 19 October

 ‘“To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in Scottish church and nation, c.1918 – 1945′

Dr Lesley Orr

Thursday 19 October 2017, 5.30pm,

Martin Hall, New College, University of Edinburgh

Sue Innes was an inspiring and influential historian, journalist and feminist activist. She was among the founding members of Women’s History Scotland (then known as Scottish Women’s History Network), and was co-editor of the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, which is dedicated to her. Sue died in 2005, and the annual Sue Innes Memorial Lecture serves to celebrate her life, including her commitment to encouraging women’s and gender history – in and of Scotland.

This year’s speaker is Dr Lesley Orr (University of Edinburgh). In common with others who have been invited to give the lecture, she knew Sue personally. Her lecture, entitled “To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in Scottish church and nation, c.1918 – 1945′ takes a central theme of Sue’s own doctoral thesis – the meaning of citizenship to newly enfranchised women in Scotland – as its starting point.

This year’s Sue Innes Memorial Lecture is co-hosted by the University of Edinburgh Centre for Theology and Public Issues. It will be followed by a drinks reception in the Rainy Hall, New College.

All welcome – attendance is free, but registration is required.

Register via eventbrite 


Out Gallivanting: Glasgow School of Art Graduate Degree Show

So last weekend was busy! Out Gallivanting again on Sunday (3 September). This time just a short train journey to Glasgow to see the Glasgow School of Art Graduate Degree Show.

I’ve been fortunate over the last few months to meet Anna Tüdos and Gina Lundy both studying for Masters degrees at Glasgow School of Art. Their respective work is thought provoking and crucially focuses on women, their experiences and history. Both have created and curated works that are visually striking too.

Anna has been studying for a MLitt in Curatorial Practice with an emphasis on Contemporary Art and she is particularly interested in exploring hidden histories and under represented issues often through unconventional ways of mediating art. I first met Anna when she was working with Kinning Park Complex to mark the 21st anniversary of the sit-in which saved the then community centre from closure. Anna curated a series of events entitled ‘March On:  A celebration of the power of collective voice‘ which included a parade with specially commissioned banners by Greer Pester influenced by the area’s history and specifically drawing on a talk given by Sue Rawcliffe, a PhD researcher at the University of Strathclyde on the Kinning Park Cooperative Women’s Guild (the first in Scotland and prominent in the Rent Strike of 1915). Women continued to be prominent in community protest in the area including the sit-in of 1996. Anastasia Rice‘s ‘All Welcome’ banner, created for the sit-in, and featuring the work of 25 women, was installed as part of Anna’s week long exhibition. Gorbals and Laurieston Cooperative Women’s Guild Branch banner also featured for one day only on the 16th of July, generously supported by Fiona Hughes social history curator and Helen Hughes textiles conservator from Glasgow Life.

For the degree show Anna has installed Greer’s banner along with a video of the parade (produced by Jarvis Gray Films).

Both give a real sense of the energy of the people who use Kinning Park Complex, of the community that has been maintained as a result of collective action and of the importance of the area’s history in shaping current projects. While I missed the parade back in July, having attended other events at the Complex, I think Anna has really captured the spirit of the area and it’s history in her curatorial work. The girls liked it too, especially the end of the film when everybody cheered and the fact that that they could bring home a free poster.

I met Gina only over a week ago at the Q&A for Dispossession at the Glasgow Film Theatre, in which her work features prominently. Gina is a (Glasgow based) photographer who has been creating work around social housing in London since 2010. Since moving to Glasgow two years ago she’s been creating research into women’s voices within the current housing crisis through interviews with resident campaigners and protest groups. She’s also been studying for a MRes in Creative Practices. Gina is particularly interested in the disproportionate impact of austerity cuts on women.

Gina’s work draws upon women’s personal histories and their activism when their homes, neighbourhoods and communities are under threat. There are many parallels to be drawn with similar action taken by women in the past, again the 1915 rent strike comes to mind, as does the campaigns against dampness in council housing in the 1970s, the poll tax in the early 1990s and more recently the bedroom tax. Grassroots campaigns by women are everywhere in our history when we think of threatened school closures; funding cuts to public services such as libraries and maternity units; and demands for improved housing conditons.

Gina uses women’s own words in her work, we are hearing their thoughts and feelings and this is very powerful. Similarly many of the women who were photographed for the project are ‘hidden’ in images only to be revealed from another angle, symbolic of the way in which women’s voices can be marginalised in debates around housing redevelopment at a national level. Yet through Gina’s work we see them and hear their voices.

We were all very impressed by Gina’s work.

You can see more of Anna’s work on the GSA flickr account and can find out more about Gina’s project ‘Fantastic New Community’ and her other work on her website

Valerie Wright (University of Glasgow)

Out Gallivanting: Speaking Out Celebration Conference

Saturday (2nd September 2017) was a lovely day for a trip to Dundee (it’s always sunny in Dundee!)

It was an early start from Glasgow, but we didn’t mind as we were heading to celebrate all of the great work that has been achieved by the volunteers and staff at Speaking Out, the ongoing oral history project to record the history of Women’s Aid throughout Scotland over the last 40 plus years. And there is a lot to celebrate!

© Glasgow Women’s Library, Scottish Women’s Aid Archive

The day opened with the Dundee Women’s Aid choir welcoming us to the Steeple, a lovely venue at the heart of the city centre,

Marsha Scott of Scottish Women’s Aid then provided a short welcome and introduction, then Lesley Orr explained how the Speaking Out project had come about and underlined the need to record the history of the Women’s Aid movement given it’s significance as a crucial social movement in Scotland. As always Lesley’s words were inspiring!

As were the words of the pioneers of the movement in Scotland. Such women, working voluntarily to help each other were ‘Rocking the Status Quo’:

Our very own Hannah Telling was up next to discuss the longevity of inaccurate discourses of violence against women which have regularly portrayed perpetrators as working class and survivors as provoking violence. The continuation of such myths from the nineteenth century to the present day was striking. But as Hannah concluded Scottish Women’s Aid have actively challenged these discourses by opposing violence against women in all forms and by providing support and practical help for women of all backgrounds throughout Scotland since the early 1970s. Important work which they continue to do today.

Before lunch we attended a break-out session on the making of the Speaking Out film which features clips of some of the women interviewed for the project, both workers in refuges and service users. Sarah Browne underlined the importance of sensitive training in oral history interviewing. The dedication and professionalism of all of the volunteers, as well as the Speaking Out team, has resulted in a unique resource for researchers, students and for the Women’s Aid movement itself.

After lunch we had an energising performance of poetry from Mridul Wadhwa which was another highlight of the day.

Then we attended another break out session in which we learned about the Scottish Women’s Aid archive at Glasgow Women’s Library where the project archivists Elizabeth O’Brien and Nicola Maksymuik  told us about the collection and volunteer Yvonne McFadden shared her experience of working on comprehensively cateloguing the newspaper clippings collection. Yvonne explained that it could be emotional work which would often make her angry given the portrayal of survivors of violence as ‘asking for it’. However, while the continuities could be depressing, the work to combat violence against women as evidenced in the newspaper clippings was energising too. The database that Elizabeth, Nicola and Yvonne have been working on will soon be available on the Glasgow Women’s Library online catelogue.

We then heard from the volunteer panel of Dot Aidulis, Yvonne McFadden and Morag Allan Campbell who shared their experience of volunteering in various capacities in the Speaking Out project. Yvonne, a historian and researcher, spoke of how working on Speaking Out has re-ignited her interest in history and led to new friendships and experiences she wouldn’t have had otherwise. For Morag, volunteering on Speaking Out while making the transition from full-time office work to PhD research, has given her confidence and strength.

Dot spoke eloquently and powerfully of her experience as a service user, of hearing about the Speaking Out project at another event and of approaching the team to take part. She spoke of coming across a small leaflet for women’s aid while living with her abusive partner. This ‘planted a seed’ and made her aware of a whole support system out there that could help her. That feeling built up and was instrumental in helping her to  find the courage and confidence to leave. Dot called Women’s Aid soon after she got to Glasgow and has received great practical and emotional support over the years. For Dot the power of Women’s Aid was in telling her story and being believed. Dot has achieved so much in her life, before and after living with her ex partner. It was truly inspiring and very emotional to hear her talk of her pride in participating in committees in the Scottish Parliament discussing violence against women. I’m glad that we have Dot advocating for women in Scotland! I’m glad that all of the volunteers in Speaking Out have given their time, expertise and knowledge to such a worthy and truly collaborative project.

The day ended with a rousing and thought provoking talk from Lesley Riddoch on the importance of doing politics differently and the need for local power which would increase women’s participation. She suggested we needed a reordering of society to prioritise the average rather than the elites. The effectiveness of grassroots social movements like Scottish Women’s Aid in making women’s voices heard was crucial in establishing such local power for everyone. Lesley certainly gave us lots to think about.

Women’s History Scotland is a partner in the project along with the Glasgow Women’s Library and the Centre for Gender History at the University of Glasgow.

If you’d like to know more about the history of, and contemporary, campaigns against violence against women in Scotland see:

And if you’d like to learn more why not participate in Strathclyde University’s Massive Open Online Course ‘Understanding Violence Against Women’ where you’d be learning with Roisin McGoldrick and Anni Donaldson


Out Gallivanting: ‘1745’ and Glasgow Slavery Remembrance

Last Thursday night (24th August) the Kinning Park Complex‘s weekly Community Meal took the form of a special event to mark UNESCO‘s designated ‘International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition’. Organised by poet and author Kate Tough, this was a thought provoking and energising evening of lovely food (provided by Küche), good company and interesting discussion.

© 1745 film (https://www.edfilmfest.org.uk/2017/1745)

However the highlight for me was the acclaimed short film ‘1745‘, which is about two enslaved sisters escaping into the Scottish wilderness against the back drop of other well known events in Scottish history. Sisters , and  play the lead roles and their performances are excellent. It is a haunting and evocative portrayal of what life may have been like for the African women captured, enslaved and forced to work in grand houses in Scotland in the eighteenth century. Their reasons for taking the risk of escaping their oppression are made all to clear. I hope Morayo and Moyo are successful in their indiegogo campaign to fund a full length feature. This is very much a story that needs to be told.

The University of Glasgow’s ‘Runaway Slaves‘ research project were advisers to the filmmakers and Nelson Mundell was present with Zandra Yeaman of the Coalition of Racial Equality and Rights to lead the discussion following the film along with Kate.

Over recent weeks there has been increasing discussion of Glasgow’s historic connections to the slave trade and the legacy of this for the city. This is not surprising given events in the United States relating to the removal of confederate monuments and the resulting backlash from white supremacists.

Glasgow’s eighteenth-century built environment and architecture was shaped by Tobacco Lords and West India merchants, in what is now rebranded the Merchant City’. This was paid for by the wealth generated by the trade in enslaved Africans and the products of their labour. Similarly Glasgow’s cotton industry had a direct link with the plantations in North America. Industries throughout Scotland were developed in the 19th Century by industrialists and capitalists who had made their fortunes not only through their own entrepreneurial endeavours, but through speculative investments in Sugar and Cotton. Glasgow is not alone in this. Cities and towns throughout Scotland benefited from the money made by individuals through ownership and investment in slave plantations.

For some commentators Scotland is yet to come to terms with this legacy given the lack of permanent exhibition space or a museum to acknowledge the role of slavery in the nation’s development. However for others, acknowledgement of Glasgow’s and Scotland’s prominent role in the accumulation of wealth from the trading in captured and enslaved Africans is well on its way to becoming mainstream and a well-known part of the city’s and nation’s history.

Discussions are ongoing and will continue in Glasgow and beyond with a series of events in the next few months.

If you are interested in finding out more about the legacy of slavery in Glasgow see:

Stephen Mullen‘s It Wisnae Us The Truth About Glasgow and Slavery (The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights worked with the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) to launch this publication detailing the true role of Glasgow in the trans Atlantic slave trade)

University of Glasgow research project – Runaway Slaves in Britain: bondage, freedom and race in the eighteenth century

For more information on upcoming events in Glasgow and beyond see:

Black History Month – for listings see http://www.crer.scot/black-history and http://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/listings/region/scotland/

Africa in Motion (AiM) film festival

Kate Tough’s website where you’ll find details about Glasgow Slavery Remembrance

News & Events

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.