Processions 2018: One month to go! Sunday 10 June in Edinburgh

For those members of Women’s History Scotland who remember with fondness the Guid Cause march back in 2009, well there’s another opportunity to march through the streets of Edinburgh to commemorate the work of suffrage campaigners, suffragists and suffragettes, which led to the Representation of the People Act in February 1918.

Processions is described a once-in-a-lifetime’opportunity to take part in a mass participation artwork to celebrate one hundred years of votes for women (well some women! As we know it was only women over 30 who met the property qualifications who were enfranchised, but let’s not let that stop us celebrating!)

On Sunday 10th of June women and girls* in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London will walk together wearing either green, white or violet. The idea is that the PROCESSIONS will appear as a flowing river of colour through the city streets.

Artichoke who are organising Processions 2017 are inviting women and girls* across the UK to come together and mark this historic moment as part of a living portrait of women in the 21st Century

(*those who identify as women or non-binary)

In addition one hundred women artists are being commissioned to work with organisations and communities across the UK to create one hundred centenary banners for PROCESSIONS as part of an extensive public programme of creative workshops. Find out more about the groups and artists involved here.Several of the artists and groups are based in Scotland including:

But as a Paisley buddy I can’t help being biased and promoting the work of the amazing Mandy McIntosh and the Feegie Needlers based in the Tannahill Centre in Ferguslie Park. I can’t wait to see their banner!

Special mention too to our friends at Glasgow Women’s Library working with Helen de Main (congratulations also on being nominated for ArtFund Museum of the Year – everyone at Women’s History Scotland has their fingers crossed!)

I hope to see lots of Women’s History Scotland members on the Procession on the 10th of June!

 You can find out more here https://www.processions.co.uk/  

Sign up for FREE here https://www.processions.co.uk/register/

Valerie Wright (University of Glasgow)

 

 

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

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!)