Aberdeen Women’s Alliance organises workshops on researching women’s history. These workshops are aimed at the general public, who might not know what sources are available to those with no formal research experience. Yesterday (22 Feb 2017) archivist Fiona Musk displayed a range of items from the NHS Grampian archivefrom the C18th to the mid C20th, including registers of nurses and patients , photographs, rules for student nurses, and minute books.
Fiona had presented a similar workshop two years ago, but I had missed it. I was determined not to miss this one. AWA have campaigned for a plaque to Maggie Myles, internationally known author of “Textbook for Midwives” and so we were particularly interested to see the Staff Register entry for Myles. (Aberdeen City Council has approved the plaque which should be in place within the next couple of months).
Personally, I was surprised and intrigued by the earliest item, a minute book of 1742 detailing the appointment of Isobel Strachan to a post at Aberdeen Infirmary:
An album of photographs of nurses and their patients at Aberdeen Children’s Hospital gave a vivid impression of late C19th care:
My favourite item, however, was the register of admissions to Cornhill Lunatic Asylum:
Causes of insanity included many cases of “disappointment in love” and several “disappointment in Marriage.” It was pleasing to note that those disappointed in love tended to recover. Family quarrels, religious doubts, bereavements and excessive tea drinking all helped fill the female wards. I was intrigued to see entries for at least two schoolmistresses, Catherine McAllan, aged 57, and Catherine Warden, aged 46. I intend to follow these up. One gendered difference in causes of insanity, we were told, was that “masturbation” was given as a cause only in male admissions!
This is the perfect opportunity for us to highlight the ongoing work of Speaking Outin which Women’s History Scotland is a partner:
2016 marks 40 years since Scottish Women’s Aid was founded, bringing together a network of local Women’s Aid groups across Scotland. This ground-breaking movement brought about a big change in Scottish society by working to challenge and prevent domestic abuse.
You can also follow Speaking Out on twitter (see below) and facebook
A film capturing the stories and memories of eight women who have been involved in Women’s Aid at different points in its history, as well as with a range of Women’s Aid groups in Scotland has also been produced in cooperation with filmaker Helena Ohman:
The stories of volunteers help to capture how Women’s Aid has changed during its 40+ year history in Scotland, but also demonstrate that many aspects of Women’s Aid’s work have remained the same: supporting women, children and young people, challenging attitudes around domestic abuse, and campaigning for an end to violence against women.
If you would like more information and/or are interested in getting involved in the Speaking Out project please contact Sarah Browne, project coordinator by email at email@example.com
Glasgow Councillor Nina Baker has put forward a motion to be discussed this Thursday (February 16 Feb) that proposes renaming streets in Glasgow named after the city’s sugar barons and tobacco lords, whose businesses were built on slavery. She suggests that instead such streets should be named after women who fought for abolition or equality more broadly.
“People walk down the streets named after these famous merchants who built their fortunes, and the city’s, off the back of slavery without really realising who these people were. My proposition is to rename streets like Ingram Street, Argyle Street and Cochrane Street after women who were part of abolition movements or the suffragettes. Women such as Mary Barbour, Lady Isabella Elder and Jean Roberts would be good examples of this. This would be extremely difficult to do but it’s something I would like to put in to the city’s public eye.”
Credit for images: Mary Barbour (Gallacher Memorial Library, Glasgow Caledonian University Special Collections and Archives); Isabella Elder and Jean Roberts (Glasgow Museums)
“When we look around our civic landscapes the celebration of Scotland’s great men is apparent through statues, buildings and street names in their honour. This isn’t so much the case with women whose achievements go largely unrecognised. So naming streets after some of Scotland’s heroines is a great idea. Part of the work of Glasgow Women’s Library, as the only accredited museum dedicated to women’s history in the UK, is to tell their forgotten stories and hidden histories.”
What do you think? Who would you rename Argyll Street, Cochrane Street or Ingram after?
In 1886 a ‘Hall of Heroes’ was added to the Wallace Monument to acknowledge the achievement of famous Scotsmen who had secured their place in Scottish History. The first two busts to be added were Robert Burns and Robert the Bruce. Over the next twenty years a further 14 busts were added – all men.
This year the Monument will be adding the first female figurehead to recognise the achievements and successes of famous Scottish women and to illustrate the roles which ‘so many women have played in the story of Scotland’.
Our own Alison McCall, Convenor of WHS, served on the selection panel which has shortlisted fourteen women who have all in their own way ‘made an outstanding contribution to the lives of countless men, women and children, in Scotland, and in countries around the world’ and ‘whose lives reflect the spirit of William Wallace’
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.
Another month, another excellent photographic exhibition in Glasgow.
A couple of weeks ago I was in Glasgow city centre and thought I’d pop in to see Larry Herman’s ‘Clydeside 1974-76‘ at Street Level Photoworks. I’d seen this photograph of children on the roundabout by Red Road high flats and thought I’d see if there any more images of high rise (I’m currently working on a project entitled ‘Housing, Everyday Life and Wellbeing over the long term: Glasgow 1950-75‘ which considers people’s experiences of living in high rise flats in the city).
But really the highlight was the diverse images displayed and the quality of Herman’s photography. Just about all aspects of life feature; work, home and play. There’s everything from men working in the ship yards of the Clyde, and not just Glasgow but Greenock too, the coal fields of Lanarkshire and outside Chrysler car factory in Linwood. We see women at work in factories, building sites and their homes. There’s also photographs of community groups compiling local newsletters and trade union meetings and much more too.
Many images stick in my mind but this is my favourite. When we think of women’s role in the textiles industry in Scotland we might first think of Dundee jute workers or Paisley mill girls, but the story of the thousands of women who worked in machining factories running up everything from car seat covers to clothes has yet to be told.
If you’ve not been along already, I would highly recommend a visit – the exhibition is on until 27th of November.
This year’s Sue Innes Memorial lecture will be delivered by Dr Lesley Orr at the Town House, Aberdeen, at 2pm on Saturday 31 October 2015 “To Build the New Jerusalem” Women’s claims to equal citizenship in church and nation in 20thC Scotland
It would be very helpful, not to mention much appreciated, if you were able to take just 5 mins to fill in this quick online Survey on the Scottish Women’s Aid 40th Anniversary Heritage Project. Please see full details below and please also find the Survey link here: