**WINNERS ANNOUNCED: WHS BURSARY 2018**

We were delighted that in our inaugural year we received many strong applications from postgraduate students, early career researchers and independent scholars from across the country.

After much deliberation and discussion, the steering committee decided to grant numerous awards given the strength of the submissions.

Many congratulations to Mairi HamiltonKate Mathis  and Caroline Douglas.

Mairi will present a paper on violence against women in Victorian Scotland at a conference in Oxford, Kate will present a paper on the presentation of medieval Scottish women during the Celtic Revival at a conference in Inverness, and finally, Caroline will use her bursary to fund research into unknown women in early photography in Scotland.

The WHS Bursary will be offered again in 2019 and we would like to encourage postgraduates, early career researchers and independent scholars working in Scotland or working on Scottish themes to apply.

Further details can be found on the WHS website or by contacting: bursary@womenshistoryscotland.org.

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

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

Suffrage in Dundee: WHS Suffrage Learning Resource launch event, 10 March 2018

On Saturday 10th of March as part of Dundee Women’s Festival Women’s History Scotland officially launched it’s new learning resource:

THE WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT IN SCOTLAND, 1867-1928: A LEARNING RESOURCE

We were fortunate to have such welcoming and supporting hosts in Dundee’s Central Library in the Wellgate with Maureen Hood and her team providing display materials from ‘Voteless not Voiceless‘ an exhibition held in the library a few years ago.

The launch was very well attended and there was a great deal of enthusiasm for both the online learning resource and learning more about the history of the suffrage movement in Dundee. In fact it turns out that Dundee could not have been a better place to hold the launch given the richness of the existing history of women in the city.

Following a brief introduction on our motivations for creating the resource and a tour of what information it contained, Esther Breitenbach of the WHS steering committeee gave an overview of the suffrage movement in Scotland, emphasising the long-run nature of the campaign for enfranchisement in Scotland and the differing demands of various groups of women. Central to this is the difference between suffragists and suffragettes: Suffragists used peaceful constitutional methods to make their case that women should have the vote on the same terms on men, and suffragist groups included the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and the Women’s Freedom League (WFL). The suffragettes on the other hand advocated militant action and were largely members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Numerically there were far more suffragists than suffragettes and yet it is the suffragettes that live on in popular memory of the campaign for the vote. Esther also spoke of the early organisation of women in favour of the suffrage cause in Dundee and women’s involvement in political parties and activity in the city.

Norman Watson, journalist and author of several books on women’s history in Dundee including the soon to be reissued Dundee’s Suffragettes: Their Remarkable Struggle to Win Votes for Women then spoke very authoritatively and engagingly on the activities of members of the WSPU and WFL in Dundee such as Ethel Moorehead, Lila Clunas and Agnes Husband. Drawing on his vast collection of postcards, suffrage memorabilia, not to mention extensive knowledge, we all learned a great deal about the reasons why there was comparatively more suffrage activity in Dundee. Central to this was the fact that the then Prime Minister’s constituency was in East Fife and Winston Churchill was standing Liberal MP for Dundee in 1908. At this point Churchill was a rising star in the party, President of the Board of Trade and would go on to be Home Secretary in 1910. As a result Dundee was a high profile constituency and thus a strategic target of suffragette militancy. One of the most famous disrupting strategy was taken by Mary Maloney a member of the WSPU who would ring a bell every time Churchill addressed a crowd in Dundee (see image above). Nearby Perth prison also became notorious as this was where suffragettes were sent to be force-fed in Scotland. The WSPU rented a flat across from the prison so that members could sing songs and chants of solidarity with those imprisoned.

If you would like a more in-depth account of Dundee’s suffragette history look out for the publication of Norman’s book later this year.

Following a tea and coffee break, with refreshments generously provided by Dundee Central Library, historian Kenneth Baxter gave a presentation on the political representation of women in Dundee, which from 1918 to c. 1955 lagged behind the other major cities in Scotland. Dundonians were slow to elect their first female Councillor and first female MP. It was interesting to hear more about the women who were elected, their careers and political priorities in the city. While there is no one definitive answer to explain the relative lack of female elected representatives in Dundee given the city’s reputation as a women’s town, we had a good discussion with many suggestions from those attending the event.

The official launch of the online learning resource was a great success and we are keen to hold similar events throughout Scotland. If you are part of a local history or community group and would like to know more about the suffrage movement in your area please get in touch by emailing: info@womenshistoryscotland.org

Valerie Wright (University of Glasgow)

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:

http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/100-years-votes-some-women

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)

 

Out Gallivanting – Launch of ‘Our Red Aunt’ Exhibition by Fiona Jack at GWL

Yesterday was a good day for women in Scotland with the passing of the Domestic Abuse Bill in the Scottish Parliament. Congratulations to Scottish Women’s Aid, all of the Women’s Aid’s throughout Scotland and everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen.

What better way to celebrate than with a trip to Glasgow Women’s Library for the launch of Fiona Jack’s exhibition ‘Our Red Aunt‘ inspired by her great aunt Helen Crawfurd?!

I don’t really believe in heroes and heroines but Helen Crawfurd is definitely a favourite of mine. She seems like she was a real character! A strong women who stood up for what she believed in.

Fiona’s exhibition, Glasgow Women’s Library’s first international solo exhibition, builds upon her earlier involvement with GWL’s 2016 exhibition ‘Forward’ on the Women’s Peace Crusade. It focuses on the life and work of Helen Crawfurd, who although familiar in the world of women’s and labour history in Scotland is less well known to the general public. When introducing the exhibition, Adele Patrick (co-founder and Lifelong Learning and Creative Development Manager at GWL) recounted a recent screening of ‘Suffragette’ at Cineworld In Glasgow at which only one person in the audience of 500 could name a Scottish suffragette or suffragist. (I’m sure everyone in Scotland will know a lot more about suffrage before the end of the centenary year!)

Helen Crawfurd (nee Jack) born in the Gorbals in 1877 was actively involved in militant suffrage protest in the UK, she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1910. She was involved in the infamous window smashing in Oxford Street in 1912 which resulted in imprisonment at Holloway. She later was imprisoned in Duke Street in Glasgow and Perth where she was forcefed. Unlike the Pankhursts, however as a committed pacifist she did not support the war which began in 1914, instead she joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) travelled to Ireland to meet James Connely and Irish women revolutionaries. In 1915 she became involved in the rent strikes in Glasgow which opposed private landlords profiteering at the expense of their tenants, many of whom were women working in munitions factories while their husbands, brothers and sons were fighting in the armed forces. In the same year she formed the Glasgow Branch of the Women’s International League and in 1916 she co-founded the Women’s Peace Crusade with Agnes Dollan in Glasgow. As vice-president of the Scottish Division of the ILP she was invited to Moscow where she met Lenin. She later left the ILP and joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1921.

If you want to know more about Helen Crawfurd you can read her entry in WHS’s own The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (the above was adapted from Audrey Canning’s entry in the Dictionary – pp. 84-85) or for an even more in-depth analysis of her work with the Women’s Peace Crusade see Lesley Orr’s ‘‘‘Shall we not speak for ourselves?’ Helen Crawfurd, War Resistance and the Women’s Peace Crusade 1916-1918’. See also a recent blog post from the GWL’s Laura Matheson ‘Meeting Helen Crawfurd through her own words…’.

All of Helen’s political influences are evident in Fiona’s exhibition which includes a display of banners with her quotations embroidered upon them. Helen certainly had a talent for hard hitting and snappy sound bites!

 

 ‘Could Insanity reach a higher level?’ Helen asks

The exhibition also features Fiona’s beautiful ceramics which depict Helen’s influences. Like Lucy (see tweet below) I think my favourite is the jug with the quote ‘I have been an active supporter of any movement that has attacked capitalism’:

 

Accompanying the exhibition is also a copy of Helen’s autobiography which has remained unpublished for decades in spite of its significance for both women’s and labour history in Scotland. There have been several attempts over the years to publish but legal difficulties have thwarted attempts. Hopefully publication will now be imminent! Meanwhile I’m sure anyone interested would be more than welcome to consult the copy in the Women’s Library.

At the launch we also had refreshments in the form of bread rolls made to a traditional Jack family recipe by the High Rise Bakers based in Gorbals as part of Bridging the Gap. (Helen’s father, William Jack was a master baker)

We all also went home with a lovely gift from the exhibition in the form of a polished stone bearing another quote from Helen ‘in the hands of the proletariat’:

‘Our Red Aunt’ is on at Glasgow Women’s Library until Saturday 17th of March 2018. It’s well worth a visit!

Valerie Wright (University of Glasgow)

With thanks to @rreitak, @suffragettecites, @ELucyJanes, @LesleyOrr14 and @highrisebakersfor the use of images from twitter (I took lots of lovely photos, but turns out my camera wasn’t working!)

 

Out Gallivanting – ‘Scottish Suffragettes’ talk by Prof Sarah Pedersen at Inverurie Library, 29 Jan 2018.

Having failed to get tickets to Sarah Pedersen’s talk on the suffragettes in Aberdeen’s Central Library and then failed to get tickets for the “repeated by popular demand” talk last year, I was delighted to finally hear  her talk in Inverurie Library tonight.  Like all her talks so far, this one was fully booked well in advance.  I took my goddaughter, Kenzi, who has been studying the suffragettes as part of her Nat 5 History curriculum.

Kenzi and I both enjoyed the talk; it was a comprehensive overview of suffragette activity in Scotland for Kenzi, whilst including many details which were new to me.   I particularly liked the photographs of Helen Fraser addressing an all-male crowd of farmers at a mart in Laurencekirk, images which Sarah pointed out were probably the source of some caricatures of strident suffragettes.

Kenzi and I were both particularly interested in Caroline Phillips, our most local suffragette, and so it was a huge bonus to discover that the Heritage Lottery funding which has enabled Sarah to give these talks also provided a free book Caroline Phillips:Aberdeen Suffragette and Journalist for each attendee!

You can also find out more on Sarah’s blog ‘Scottish Suffragettes’ about her Heritage Lottery funded project ‘The Suffragettes in North East Scotland’.

Alison McCall (WHS Convener)

Dundee Women’s Festival: Launch of WHS Suffrage learning resource

We are delighted to be launching our new suffrage learning resource as part of the Dundee Women’s Festival in March!

You can find further details in the beautifully illustrated programme – Dundee-Womens-Festival-Programme-20181 (p. 12) which also has many excellent events for all. There is genuinely something for everyone. Contact details available on the Dundee Women’s Festival Website.

The theme, given that this year is the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, is ‘A Vote for the Future’. So it really is the perfect environment in which to launch our resource (more details of when the resource will go live will follow soon). The study of women’s history in Dundee is well established with Eleanor Gordon’s research on the women workers of the jute mills, Kenneth Baxter’s work on female politicians, Sarah Browne’s research on the Dundee Women’s Citizens Association, and Norman Watson’s work on Dundee women, among many others. And let’s not forget the excellent Dundee Women’s Trail!

On Saturday 10th of March, from 2-4pm in the Wellgate Library we will be thinking about the demands made by women in Dundee for equality both before and after the Representation of the People Act of 1918. We’ll be discussing constitutional suffrage as well as the militancy of the suffragettes. Also we’ll be thinking about the role of political parties and the implications of the vote in Dundee in terms of women’s political involvement.

Practical advice on how to find out more about women’s history in Dundee will be provided along with examples of useful source material.

(Image The Dundee Courier, 3 April, 1911 as featued in http://www.leisureandculturedundee.com/localhistory/exhibitions/voteless)

To register for FREE visit the event page on eventbrite.

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

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)