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

 

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.

Speaking Out – Recalling Women’s Aid in Scotland

This week the Scottish government announced that from July 2017, funding from the devolved administration will be handed to charities on a three-year basis instead of every 12 months.

Equalities secretary Angela Constance suggested that the change will “provide greater clarity and reassurance” to charities .


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

This is the perfect opportunity for us to highlight the ongoing work of Speaking Out in 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.

To celebrate and mark this important anniversary, Scottish Women’s Aid, in partnership with Glasgow Women’s Library, Glasgow University Centre for Gender History and Women’s History Scotland, was awarded money by the Heritage Lottery Fund to record and share the history of Women’s Aid in Scotland.

 

To find out more about the project follow this link to the Speaking Out website.

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 sarah.browne@scottishwomensaid.org.uk

WHS Essay Prize 2016 – *Winner Announcement*

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

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

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

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

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

In the Scotsman:

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

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

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

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

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

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