Aye Lassie – Episode 3
Written by Steg on 2nd March 2019
Episode 3 – Glasgow Women’s Library
In episode 3 Trish and Delaina leave 1928 behind and jump to today to explore some of the legacies the Scottish suffrage campaigners and other social activist left and how modern day women are using their stories as inspiration and motivation. They speak with guest Caroline Gausden from the Glasgow Women’s Library to find out how it collects, preserves and shares Scottish women’s history.
You can find out more by following the Aye Lassie Twitter account.
Flag outside the Glasgow Women’s Library. Photo by Delphine Dallison.
As promised, Delaina left the Glasgow Women’s Library with one of artist Fiona Jack’s rocks. She produced these as part of her research into her great-aunt Helen Crawfurd who was also called “Our Red Aunt.”
Watch the video of Emily Davison at the Epsom Derby in 1913. Be advised, it could be upsetting to some viewers.
Together: Hello and welcome!
Delaina: I’m Delaina Sepko.
Trish: And I’m Trish Caird.
Delaina: You’re listening to Aye Lassie, which is a 3 part series that introduces you to Scottish women’s history. We think that there are generations of extraordinary Scottish women who in their own ways have helped shape the world we live in now.
Trish: But we noticed that some of our heroines have been misrepresented or almost forgotten. So we’re excited to have the chance to tell you about them and their work.
Delaina: In this episode we’ll leave 1928 and jump to today to discuss some the legacies left by the women we’ve come across in this series. We want to know how their lives, their stories and their achievements are remembered and find out more about how modern Scottish women are learning and sharing lessons from the past.
But why should we pay any mind to things that happened 100 or 500 years ago? Why should any of that matter now? Because the present isn’t separate from the past or the future. They’re not isolated periods of history with no influence or effect on each other. History is a continuum and in order to know where’s we as a society are and where we’re going, we need to know where we’ve been. The best way to know the past is to research, study and share it. The way Trish and I have done that is to find a person or an event or a movement that we can relate to. Not something that catches our interest but something that really speaks to us.
Language, culture and societal values have changed. There’s a lot of differences between how we live and think today and how women 100 or 500 years ago lived and thought. But we still have the same hopes and desires. That’s not changed. People – both men and women – want to be safe. We want to be well nourished. We want to be stimulated – mentally, emotionally and physically – so that we can live and not just stay alive. These are human reactions that have remained the same over hundreds of years. So even though we think there’s nothing we have in common with Mary or Elizabeth, we do.
To find out what exactly it is we have in common we need to have a look at the legacies left by these and other women. To do this, we’ll speak with Caroline from Glasgow Women’s Library, the UK’s only accredited museum dedicated to women’s history.
Caroline: Yeah I’m Caroline Gausden and I’m relatively new as a member of staff at the library actually. I started the end of last year as a development worker programming and curating participation and partnership so quite a long title! But I think it’s really to reflect the multi-faceted nature of the stuff that happens at the library. They’re very keen for things to not get siloed into areas that don’t communicate with each other so my job is to go between the departments. But I’ve got quite a history with the library apart from working here. I was a, I’ve done a lot of my research when I was at art school. My research was kind of about the beginnings of the library so I know it, I’ve known the library since it was in Trongate, which is where I did interviews with women who were involved in a project called the Rule of Thumb Project, which was about domestic violence. That was fun. I think that was an award-winning project as well so.
Caroline: Well I was just interviewing the women, not winning the awards! They were winning the awards. So yeah I’ve got this kind of in and outside perspective of being a researcher and an artist in the archive and now coming here to work really recently.
Delaina: For everyone’s benefit, can you tell us what Glasgow Library is? What it’s for, who is it for and how did it come about?
Caroline: Yes so it’s a, I don’t want to say it’s a misnomer but it is a library so I guess that’s first and foremost but it’s also a museum and an archive. It’s the only accredited museum of women’s history in the UK and it’s been recently given the title of National Treasure as well.
Delaina: I heard. Yes!
Caroline: Yeah so it’s got all the different parts and I guess that involves the museum. We’ve got a big collection of books in the library and it’s free to join the library, for everyone. And there aren’t any fines on the books, which is
Delaina: That’s unusual.
Caroline: Worth saying. And then we get a lot of people coming into the archive as well to sort of research women’s history. So we’ve got a purpose built archive and we’ve got an event space as well. We do a lot of, all sorts of different events. We do our own series called Herland, which can very between poetry nights to ceiliahs to all sorts of things. It’s about celebrating women creatives. We’re also, we’re a place of life-long learning and that’s really at the heart of everything we do. So as I, the community room we’re sitting in, we have an English as a second language courses women can attend every morning. And we’ve got life-long learning assistants who tutor with them individually. And that as well. And it’s kind of anchoring that learning to women’s achievement as well. So using our collections and our resources and. We’re also an exhibition space so we have artists come in and make shows. We’ve got a show in at the moment that’s dotted about different parts of the building and that’s about artists responding to the histories we’ve got here and making work. So yeah a little bit more than a library but also a library.
Delaina: So I get the library part and that it’s a library plus.
Delaina: What about the women part?
Caroline: Yeah so
Delaina: Is it a library about women and women’s endeavours?
Caroline: Yes it is.
Delaina: Or is it a library for women?
Caroline: Yeah that’s the bit I should have
Delaina: That’s alright!
Caroline: said straight away. So it’s all about celebrating women’s achievements and empowering women now to kind of move forward. Yeah sort of thinking about how we can learn these histories that are not spoken so much. So yeah that’s the main thing that drives all the collections.
Delaina: Can men use the library?
Caroline: Yes! The library is for everyone who’s interested in women’s history.
Caroline: And women’s achievements. Celebrating those things as well. We work with certain sort of safe spaces as well which are women only spaces for events but we also do events that are open to everybody. And like I said, anyone can join. You can come and see the exhibitions.
Delaina: And what about the Glasgow part? Because I’ve, I’m not 100% on the origins and the beginnings of the Glasgow Women’s Library. Why Glasgow, if it’s the only accredited museum in the country? Was there anything particular about Glasgow that made it a suitable place for that kind of a collection and that kind of attention?
Caroline: Well the origins of the Women’s Library are in the 1990s when Glasgow was awarded City of Culture.
DS: That’s right.
Caroline: So that’s really the kind of moment that spurred on the original women activists, who are still involved, Adele Partick and Sue John, to respond. What they were really thinking about was the idea, the light of Glasgow. The light of the world was going to be shined on Glasgow at this point and what was the cultural offering going to be? And they were, I think Adele’s quote is “it looked very stale, pale and male.”
Delaina: Yes, ok.
Caroline: That was the very beginning of the Women in Profile project/movement, which was about saying there are other things and these things get lost from history a lot of the time. There are other voices to listen to. And so they started Women in Profile and there was a really key project called Castlemilk Womanhouse, which was kind of about, in response to the City of Culture. Making a cultural centre somewhere else and they located in Castlemilk.
Caroline: So it was very much about saying culture’s not just in city centre powerhouses as well. But it was always about thinking about what sort of support structures you need in order to be creative so that was about creating a space for women who might feel isolated. Who might not have the networks or the confidence to be creative so that the Womanhouse was loosely based on this Judy Chicago model of women houses, which is about spaces for support for female creativity but also radically different. It was located, I think Castlemilk at the time was the largest housing estate in Europe.
Caroline: So one thing to acknowledge class as well in the politics. So at that time it wasn’t a women’s library but that was kind of the project at the heart of how the women’s library went on and be what it is today. So yeah I guess that’s why Glasgow. Sort of a response to a moment.
Caroline: Glasgow Women’s Library does a lot of work nationally as well so sort of going to different festivals and doing workshops and all sorts of things elsewhere.
Caroline: So it’s trying, it’s really on the one hand really rooted in Glasgow history and really also still interested in local women and those perspectives but also reaching out to other places and encouraging other women’s libraries.
Delaina: It sounds like there’s an eye to what else is happening around the UK. Potentially what else is happening around the world.
Delaina: Ok. So it’s responding but not restricted to Glasgow.
Caroline: Yeah, yeah. The hope was that other people would be inspired and start women’s libraries elsewhere. And people do come and visit because they want to start a women’s library.
Caroline: And I guess it’s that kind of context responsiveness that other people would start it elsewhere in relation to their own histories as well.
Delaina: We’ve been talking a lot with other folks about some of the social campaigns and activism that happened in Scotland around women’s suffrage and we’ve heard loads of different stories about some of the women involved, about some of the men involved, about the different tactics. So some were constitutionalist, some that were militant. So we’ve heard a lot of different things about a lot of different people and I would like to know a little bit more about some of the collections that you have here and whether or not there’s any connections with those women and those events and some of those periods of activism that happened in Scotland and maybe even in Glasgow.
Caroline: Yeah well we’ve got in our archive, we’ve got quite a big collection of different suffrage materials. I’ve brought a few out. So we’ve got things that come out a lot, probably because of the time now. We are looking at the suffrage movement’s
Delaina: Because what we’re 101 years
Delaina: now so last year was the 100 year anniversary at least of the partial enfranchisement. So that was women over 30 who owned property were given the vote but it took another 10 years after that to get everybody universal suffrage.
Delaina: So everybody could vote. Well over 21. We haven’t hit that century mark yet. We did have a big year last year. There has been a lot of attention for that reason.
Caroline: Yeah so I guess the question is what do we have? We’ve got things like, I brought a few things like these. We’ve got collections of postcards, which are quite interesting. Just a kind of snap shot of different opinions of the time. So these are, things ranging from. There’s look like, yeah. So basically these are postcard reacting against the suffragettes and the suffrage movement. There are postcards that are very pro and there are these ones here that I’ve pulled out first that seem to be kittens.
Delaina: Cats? Kitten on them?
Caroline: Mutually benefitting from the movement who aren’t taking a side.
Delaina: What were these used for? Would they have been handed out in the streets? Would they have been sent to your house? With dinner invitations on the back of them? Were they?
Caroline: Yeah, people have used them.
Delaina: Look at that!
Caroline: They’ve written things. We’re very keen for people to get these out and look through them. They’re in little plastic seals to keep them good.
Delaina: To keep the mucky hands off.
Caroline: So we got a whole load of those.
Delaina: Those are fantastic!
Caroline: And then things like the watch. A very large timepiece.
Delaina: It’s this beautiful round glass timepiece
Caroline: With a
Delaina: with a brass ring around the outside with a great big brass loop at the top. There’s a, is that a man in the middle?
Caroline: Yeah so this is slightly
Delaina: He’s got a baby in each arm?
Caroline: What is this all about? Because he doesn’t look very happy holding these babies.
Delaina: He doesn’t! The babies are screaming. He’s got his nightcap on and his night shirt. It looks like he’s landed right into it and doesn’t know what to do.
Caroline: So possibly not a pro suffrage piece.
Delaina: No! No that strikes me as, like “this is what happens when women get the vote. Your man is left at home to deal with the screaming weans.”
Caroline: So things like that everyone can look at and then we’ve got papers of individual women in different parts of the movement. So the suffrage movement and suffragettes.
Delaina: Papers, so this would be correspondence amongst each other?
Caroline: Yeah so this one’s an interesting one and it maybe goes on to your question about how it’s relevant now. We’ve got Helen Crawfurd’s unpublished autobiography. So she was an activist and what’s happened is, just last year, we had an artist who came over from New Zealand and she’d found out that Helen Crawfurd was her aunt. And she didn’t know
Delaina: Imagine that! What a lady to be related to.
Caroline: Yeah so it was an unravelling of, she maybe just heard from her dad that Helen was called our Red Aunt. And she didn’t, when she started to research it, she realised “oh wow, this woman’s really influential.” She’s very bound up with Communist politics. She writes this didactic but very powerful style of text that Fiona was very interested in. Some of the sentences were really compelling. We’ve got other books that Helen read where she’s underlined bits in the margins. So this set Fiona off on this project to make various pieces that were in response to Helen’s still unpublished autobiography. So it was also the fact that she at first couldn’t get a hold of a copy. She heard it was there. There wasn’t access to it. And then she eventually started to take these hand typed, blurry pages and transcribe them and make them up. And she did that with her mother. So there was a lovely kind of relationship in time where she was learning about somebody in her family history and her mother started to transcribe and then became really involved in it as well. And wanted to go on Wikipedia and change some inaccuracies. She made these artworks that were all over the library including this sort of rock that I’ve got here that’s got the sentence “in the hands of the proletariat” so I think it was something that Helen had underlined in a book.
Delaina: Right, ok.
Caroline: And something she must have found powerful so she got them printed on these really nice
Delaina: I see, I see.
Caroline: rocks. Somehow related to New Zealand as well. So there’s this kind of thing. We’ve been giving them out so you can get one when you leave.
Caroline: So I think she wanted them all to go back. She made a certain number. So that’s just sort of one way, one piece of our collection and very much works now, in this case, with artistic practice. There’s a lot of, beyond the collections there’s a lot of research history groups in here that do the walks, the guided walks as well.
Delaina: Can you tell us a little bit more about these walks?
Caroline: They’re developing, they’re developed in response to the lack of women historical figures in our physical landscape. Statues and things like that. So it’s about how these histories are really out of view. And the Women’s Library’s been developing these for a good 10, 15 years maybe. I’m not sure. The first one, which was the West End walk, is all about women’s groups getting together and doing the research and then locating them in different areas of Glasgow. So we’ve got an East End walk. It’s really lovely to listen to, I think. It connects us very well to fiery women activists.
Delaina: But I can imagine that it goes the other way as well. Not only do we get connected to them by physically being a place or a place near by where something might have happened but I think there’s a really opportunity for their work to come and influence us as well. There’s something really magical about being in a place even though you might be separated by a hundred years. It’s in the fabric of the city and taking folk around and showing them seems to be a fantastic way to really bring that to life. To make that a real thing in a real place. And not just a name from the history books.
Caroline: Absolutely, I think it is about how that gets embedded in our memory. I think one of the issues was women’s names. The forgetting and the process of trying to remember the names and I think being in the places and thinking about those histories, being there, just kind of embeds it in a good way. You can think of an area quite differently. And we can see reoccurring patterns. So the East End walk that goes about Bridgeton is really, you can see even when it starts to talk about weaving as a craft that has always had a radical history and then it goes into all the different rallies that gathered on Glasgow Green over the years. The big one I can remember in recent history was the anti-Iraq War one. Started there. It’s nice to listen and hear back. A lot of the time, at the heart of these rallies women were organising.
Delaina: Right, ok.
Caroline: It’s great to listen. I’m thinking of one woman Betty McAllister who ran a fish shop, I think, near here and she was always gathering. The fish shop was called The Office and she would gather people for different campaigns and things. And she was called Battling Betty. She’s just one of the women who come up in those histories. Also a nice wee tie in, eventually she was voted as Scotswoman of the Year in the 80s, I think. Also Adele Patrick has had the Scotswoman of the Year.
Delaina: You’re very own!
Caroline: Yeah! It’s a nice wee tie in.
Delaina: That’s lovely. I think about in, doing this and putting all these materials together and speaking to everybody so far makes me really think why should anybody who’s not come across any of these names before or know very much about women’s suffrage, why is this important? Why should they take a little bit more time to get to know them? What is it that we can maybe learn from them?
Caroline: I think it, for me, it’s like, it’s a massive history that most people don’t know about and I think it’s the consequences of on an unconscious level you’re in the world and there aren’t any records to say as a woman what you’ve achieved. You’ve been anonymous in statues. You have certain roles you’re kept, traditionally. You’re meant to stay at home or whatever. And I think it’s about having the confidence to act. And somehow I feel that knowing a history, and there’ll be because it’s a very large history even the suffragette, the suffrage is well known now, we still just know one or two names rather then. And maybe we won’t relate to the particular names that have come up to the top of the. And so it’s about Fiona’s journey to figure out that her aunt was one of those names and she’s got a personal way in. I expect there’s more than one way in to that history in terms of there’ll be working-class histories of struggle. There’ll be learned women. There’ll be all sorts. So I think what is important is being able to relate that history as something that you’re part of and then giving you the confidence to act in the present moment. It feels like you’re supported by that so I think what the Women’s Library is great at is figuring out all the different ways people need supported. And I think often these kind of support structures that make it possible to act are quite invisible. So you could be moving through the world and being quite successful not realise that these histories that have made you confident. It’s about giving other people who may be more on the margins of history and those things, the feeling, the confidence to act as well. It feel it’s that kind of thing that’s important to learning. To go on and learn things you need to relate them to yourself. You can learn about stuff that’s very distant from you but I think those personal threads and personal connection. When we talked about being in the place. People learn differently as well. I think it’s really all those things.
Delaina: We’ve also seen that it’s really difficult to talk about women’s suffrage in the UK let alone in Scotland specifically in isolation. That there were so many other forms of social activism and campaigning that were feeding up to and came out of, so it’s not an isolated time period by folks who are only interested in that cause and that campaign. We’ve seen that there were big education movements, women’s education and a lot of work done at the end of the 1800s to help get women into higher education, to medical programmes and to graduate with the same qualification as men. There was a lot of work in housing and housing conditions. We have spoken to folks about Mary Barbour, Govan’s own local hero, and we keep hearing about Mary Barbour but did Mary Barbour really do suffrage? Well she did a lot of other stuff too and I think it’s really easy to look at it or to want to look at it in isolation but it’s this mix, I think actually, that provides more opportunities for folks to make those connections because it’s so rich.
Delaina: Because it’s so dense. Dense also means that it’s kind of hard to get your wee finger in, get a finger hold into the topic. It can be really confusing with all the organisations. They got really long names! You boil them down to acronyms and maybe they have an argument. They split. It can be a little confusing at times and having smaller places or people or nuggets to ingest have actually helped me get that foothold into it. Maybe it’s one woman’s story. Maybe it’s a particular place in Scotland. Or maybe it’s a particular reaction to something that really starts to give me a sense of what happened there and the work that went into all of that. It’s a big, moveable sort of time period with a lot of different contributing concerns and people and it’s lovely that here at the Women’s Library that you have access, that people have access to some of these things. Like that beautiful watch. Like postcards with somebody’s actual handwriting on them on the back. That makes it real. That makes it a thing that actually happened and it can be really compelling to come and hold it in your hand or read somebody’s direct words right out of their diary.
Delaina: It’s a really lovely resource that not just, not even, not limited to just women either. Anybody who’s interested in these topics can come and engage with those. I would encourage everyone to come down and at least come say hello and see what it’s all about. Have a look at the events schedule. See what’s on. Check out one of these walks that happen both in the West End and in the East End.
Caroline: Yeah we’ve got a range of walks. We’re still developing new ones so there’s a Necropolis walk. There’s an East End walk. A West End walk. We’ve got specific suffragette walks as well. We’re developing an LGBT heritage trail at the moment.
Delaina: Ah fantastic.
Caroline: We’ve got people coming every Saturday to do research on that and that will be launching in the spring as well. And of course on top of the walks, we do a lot of workshops, events, performances. Our life-long learning coordinator Donna is converting a Muriel Spark plat at the moment with a group of women. There’ll be a performance of that. It’s all about taking these historical things and really living them.
Delaina: Giving them life.
Caroline: Yeah adapting them. Seeing what talks to you and what doesn’t talk to you.
Delaina: I think that’s a good point that sometimes the original thing that you look into maybe that’s not the thing that catches your attention and captures your imagination. That there might be another way, another item, another event, another person that you can talk to that can help you get a sense of things. So even if maybe the walks aren’t your bag, then maybe come check out one of the events. There’s lots of ways to get involved.
Trish: So Delaina. Have you learned anything new or different or interesting that you never thought you would learn while you were doing this?
Delaina: I’m not Scottish, right, so when I went to school we were taught all the things about America. Not Scotland. So to be honest, a lot of this was new. Particularly all the names, the events, the specifics about what happened in Scotland. Particularly with women’s suffrage. Yes, all of it has been kind of new but that’s not the part I’ve really felt invested in. And I think that’s a good way to describe this.
I was looking at the British Film Institute. They have a lovely bit of film archive of early suffrage demonstrations and moving image from those times. And I was just flicking through them, right? I was watching videos and I came across one that kind of changed everything. At least the way that I was felling and approaching all of this. Now I know that there was a lady in London called Emily Davison. She stepped in front of the horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913 and died as a consequence of her injuries. And I knew this in a very abstract, words on paper kind of way. What happened was the BFI has news footage of that event. I wasn’t really expecting to have the reaction that I did and that was all of the emotions at the same time. As a researcher, you need to distance yourself a wee bit from the subject matter and the materials in order to be able to look at things in a mostly objective kind of way. And that’s precisely the way I was approaching this video when I first watched it. All of that went right out the window as soon as I saw her step out onto the track and literally, in the blink of an eye, she was on the ground. And that was it. I wasn’t expecting, emotionally, I wasn’t expecting to have that reaction. So overall the thing that’s new or interesting to me is that I actually took quite a lot of this personally. Which I hadn’t expected to. And that particular bit of footage, that made it real. That made that woman real. That made her actions real. That made the cause and the hopes that she had real in a way that I suddenly felt very connected to. And that’s the part that I wasn’t expecting.
Trish: And that’s the human part.
Delaina: That is the human part.
Trish: Because perception is all. What you see, as long as. If it becomes real to you, then it is real. You seeing that woman. I mean I’ve seen that footage several times and it’s not something that you ever celebrate.
Delaina: No! No!
Trish: It’s not a celebratory
Delaina: Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to glorify this!
Trish: No I wasn’t thinking that.
Delaina: Just in case!
Trish: I just thought I’d say that. That is, if anybody watches it, I do not think that there’s any going to stand up and say “Yipee! That was just the thing to happen! That was great!”
Trish: It’s not like that. It is a shocking piece of film.
Delaina: It is.
Trish: And it really rings home what people will do when they really believe in something. Because their perception is that
Delaina: That it’s worth it. It’s worth the risk. So the think with Emily is that no one really knows when she did that. Or what she was hoping to achieve in doing, attempting something like that. But I can’t help but think that if you’re contemplating being near horses that are going really, really fast around a track and maybe getting close to them that major harm, bodily harm or death were very real consequences. And I can’t help but think that she didn’t understand that. That that wasn’t, that it hadn’t crossed her mind.
Trish: I don’t believe that she could not have understood what she was doing because she grew up in London at a time when the mode of transport
Delaina: Was horse.
Trish: Was horse.
Delaina: Horse and carriage.
Trish: Yeah. There was no way. She was a mature woman and I’d be very surprised if she didn’t see some sort of accident at some point in her life
Delaina: She would have known.
Trish: involving a horse or heard about it.
Delaina: Getting near moving horses is usually kind of dangerous.
Trish: It’s not the best idea normally.
Delaina: So I found this one, albeit quite well known, but this one woman act to be so relatable that I actually. I sat there and I thought “Delaina, would you do that? Would you try that?” Is that something that you’d do? And I don’t have an answer for that and I’m not saying that that is necessarily the best option in a lot of times but what it did was really make me think about the commitment and the belief that was driving that and all of the other instances where people put their lives, their reputations, their money and everything on the line. That’s the part that really changed the way that I was looking at some of this. It was no longer just stories about women with words in books. All of the sudden it became a real thing that real people did that had real consequences. Women can vote now. All of the things added up and it worked!
Trish: In 1913 they couldn’t vote.
Delaina: that’s right.
Trish: Whereas my experience was slightly different. I knew about that footage. I’ve watched it several times but it didn’t have the same emotional impact to me, for me. My involvement started because I was asked to write a 10 minute film and that was it.
Delaina: About women’s history?
Trish: About Mary Barbour.
Delaina: About Mary Barbour! Ok.
Trish: So I wrote a script. I had been doing some creative writing and I wrote a script and it was just a monologue. And I put Mary Barbour in the middle of it all. And it was just telling the tale of the Rent Strikes and I got a friend to be Mary Barbour. It took all day to do that 10 minute film but that’s what sparked my interest. Because Mary Barbour was someone who I didn’t know about. That’s not true. I did know about her but it was through a song that a songwriter friend had written. But even then, like you say, that was just words on a page. Or words being sung. It was more a metaphor than a real person. But it wasn’t until I actually had to go and do the research and find out that this woman actually when she lived in Govan lived across the road from me! For me, 6 years on to be then looking at 2 queens. Actual royal queens For me Mary and Elizabeth, they were the beginning and I like to know the beginning. I like to know the beginning, the middle and the end. Well I’ll never know the end of this.
Delaina: Was that the part that was interesting? Was finding what you felt was the beginning?
Trish: Yes. Cause I’d watched TV and read the stories so I knew what was fed to me. But it was interesting to go and look at more serious works about these two women.
Trish: Whose, stripped away. What do we hear when we hear about Mary? We hear about how she might have killed her husband.
Delaina: The part I know is that she lost her head by the end of it.
Trish: She did.
Delaina: At the end of the story.
Trish: She dies.
Delaina: Sorry to spoil the ending guys! She loses her head at the end. That’s the part I know.
Trish: Mary Queen of Scots got her head chopped off.
Delaina: And Queen Elizabeth? The only thing I kind of know, and again it’s in that word on pages kind of way, is that she married England or something because she didn’t want a husband.
Delaina: My sense and what I’m gathering what you found out along the way is that there was more to it than that. That there was something that changed ideas about gender and power and politics because these women had this interaction. It makes me wonder would they have had that if they lived separately at different times? Was it something about their combination? Or about those women in general?
Trish: No, as a combination. And also it was the fact that they were ruling queens. They weren’t queen consorts.
Trish: They were the rulers. They were the ones who had absolute rule over the kingdom that they ruled. Their word was law.
Delaina: And this set in motion
Trish: And this set in motion the whole idea of being a woman in power at a time when such a thing was an anomaly. But not only was it a woman being the anomaly. There were 2 women living next door to each other, kingdom-wise.
Trish: They were both anomalies in the whole of Europe. And I just kind of went oooooooooh!
Delaina: There’s something about
Trish: There’s synchronicity!
Delaina: the coming together of female in power but that’s exactly it, females in power, that suddenly those two things weren’t mutually exclusive. Albeit there was a heck of a lot of opposition. There were loads of folk that didn’t think that that was alright. That that wasn’t God given. Whatever their rational was around that, there was still a lot of opposition to their being in those roles. All you need though is one instance and in this case, we had two instances at the same time of women going “you know what? No. I’m in charge.”
Trish: But their autonomy was also constrained by men.
Delaina: No, I’m not saying that they had absolute free reign because they were the monarch. That obviously, that set of constraints has its own particular flavour. So maybe you’re giving up one harness for another but in this case, that was the only option. You couldn’t have, you couldn’t be a woman, be the monarch and do whatever you wanted.
Trish: But I think the important thing that women sort of absorbed maybe not consciously but I think women absorbed was that women could rule. And be successful at it. Elizabeth was on the throne for 50 years I think. No, 40 years? Something like that. I can’t remember.
Delaina: A while.
Trish: It was a while, yeah. She had numerous attempts, numerous attempts of people trying to murder her.
Delaina: Or marry her.
Trish: Just ordinary her.
Delaina: Kind of the same thing.
Trish: She, the first civil service and the first MI5. There’s a famous picture of her where the gown is full of eyes and that was to show
Delaina: That’s right.
Trish: and that was to show that she was Queen. She had the power and she had her eyes on you.
Delaina: She was watching.
Trish: She was watching! Because she had to watch. And that’s the downside of being a ruler because it was a nest of vipers.
Delaina: Yeah. Whether you’re a lady monarch or a man monarch, I don’t think that changes.
Trish: That doesn’t matter.
Delaina: I don’t think that makes a difference on way or the other! I really enjoyed doing this series. It’s been an excellent opportunity to become more familiar with the way that Scotland came at, in my case, women’s suffrage. It’s been really good to hear about how maybe all that might have started, I mean, 500 years ago. It’s been nice to weave this narrative together and to speak with other people about how they, their take on I, how they’ve been ingesting and sharing those stories and in some instances keeping a lot of those legacies alive. So we’ve been really lucky to have all that input as well. It’s made me realise that there’s a lot of people doing a lot of good work.
Delaina: And it’s been a real pleasure to speak to them about it. I hope that you feel the same way.
Trish: Well absolutely! But I also, one of the other fun aspects of it was the conversations that we have had just exploring these themes and these thoughts and discussing these people that you have been interviewing. And what comes from that and it’s all just a great learning curve.
Delaina: It is and all along the purpose of putting this together has been an introduction. It’s not a massively in depth in any particular place in the hopes that in celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month – Happy Women’s History Month –
Trish: Happy Women’s History Month!
Delaina: we can share a little bit in our own quirky little way some of these women, some of their stories and some of their achievements
Trish: Yeah absolutely.
Delaina: So thank you Trish!
Trish: Thank you Delaina!
Delaina: It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Trish: It’s been an absolute fantastic pleasure.
Delaina: Thanks a lot everyone!
Trish: Thank you!
Delaina: This is Aye Lassie and we wish you a very Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.
We’d like to thank everyone who helped put together episode 3. That’s Caroline Gausden, Sue John and Jenny Noble from the Glasgow Women’s Library. We’d also like to thank Sunny G radio, Lisa Donati from Gie It Laldy, Briony Cullin and Kirsty Mooney. Thank you thank you thank you!
Want to find out more or listen to this show again? Head on over to sunnyg.com/ayelassie to play this and the other episodes as many times as you like!
You can check out extra materials related to each show. Feel free to get in touch via our Twitter account @AyeLassieRadio and let us know what you think.
About the authors/hosts
Dr Delaina Sepko is a researcher and archivist. Although she’s not Scottish, she has a great love and respect for the women who have helped make her adopted country a fierce nation. She is drawn to and inspired by the Scottish suffrage campaigners and especially curious how they used music in their activism. When she’s not revelling in Scottish women’s history, she’s running DMF Research and most likely doing something music-related. You can check out her other work via her Twitter account.
Trish Caird is interested in women’s histories and she’s been a member of the Strong Women of Clydeside since 2013. She’s helped flesh out histories of Mary Barbour and other women involved in the Glasgow Rent Strikes as well as the Women’s Peace Crusade campaign. Her work in film, as a history tour guide and as a singer give her a unique perspective when researching and sharing stories about remarkable Scottish women.