Earth Day Reading

This Saturday 22nd April is Earth Day, a day to encourage people across the world to be more environmentally friendly. Earth Day 2017 is focussed on Environmental and Climate Literacy, and empowering everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defence of environmental protection.

Empowerment is exactly what GWL is about and I’ve picked out a few examples of books you can borrow from the library to read more about ecofeminism, our environment and thinking green.  There’s thought-provoking essays, stories and poems galore on our shelves and anyone can become a member for free, just drop in or become a member online here!

We are always looking to expand different areas of our collection and, to mark Earth Day 2017, we’d love to expand our environmentally-themed resources. We have a mini wish list including: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate by Naomi Klein, Breathe by Sarah Crossan, To the River by Olivia Laing, and everything by Rebecca Solnit.

If you would are able to donate one of the books on our list or you have other suggestions of environmental reads by women, please let us know! And if you’re curious about what we already have on our shelves, you can browse the catalogue here.

“Ecofeminism is a movement that sees a connection between the exploitation and degradation of the natural world and the subordination and oppression of women.” – Mary Mellor

“Did you say it’s made of waves?

Yes, that’s it.

I wonder what the waves are made of.

Oh, waves are made of waves.

Waves are what they are,

Shimmeringness…” – Margaret Tait


Happy Earth Day and happy reading!

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Passion, Imagination, Conscience

Since 21st September 2016 we have been celebrating and reflecting, thinking and speaking about the development of Glasgow Women’s Library as we mark the organisation’s 25th birthday. This has been a significant process for me personally and professionally. I have had a chance to discuss and write about the process of how GWL was formed, has grown and been shaped and sustained in presentations and talks and through a series of three exhibitions during our anniversary year. I have had much thinking to do as I was there at the outset. The GWL team who have been blogging in our anniversary year so far have chosen to write about their all-important first impressions of the Library. I am writing from another perspective, as someone who was trying to help create a great impression for the first visitors on Day 1 on 21st September 1991 as well as someone who is as still keen to make people’s first impression of GWL as positive as it can be.

The GWL team have also been selecting favourite objects, this task, choosing one thing from thousands in the collection (most of which are freighted with meaning for me) has been difficult! What do you choose from the hundreds of thousands of items on offer? How do you make the call on selecting a suffragette’s umbrella or a signed Guerilla Girl poster? So, I have tried to think of a significant moment (the place and time when the library launched itself on the world) and an object that evokes that time but also connects to GWL today.

In some of the rare and precious images of the launch day and early months of GWL, in our tiny shopfront in Garnethill (now a stop on our Garnethill Heritage Walk) you can spot box files filled with journals, a bike propped up next to a tiny sink, a framed poster of a Women in Profile event, cassette tapes and postcards on display and in the background proudly mounted on the wall, a work that was given to us by the artist Sam Ainsley. This exuberant, beautiful print imbued the first GWL space with a sense of joy, optimism and vibrancy, creating a different quality to the space from mainstream or academic libraries. It signalled from the outset that creativity would be at the heart of GWL.

GWL interior, Garnethill,  1991, photo: Adele Patrick, GWL collection.

GWL interior, Garnethill, 1991, photo: Adele Patrick, GWL collection.

Amongst the objects, artefacts and images I love most in our collection are ones made by artists and this piece has travelled with us through all the subsequent homes, surviving as we did break ins and damp, the mould and the cold, and the four stressful flittings. Sam Ainsley was a hugely well regarded artist at this time and her generosity in giving us this work conveyed a great sense of belief in our endeavour by an important women artist. This was a risky, unfunded, maverick idea: a women’s library, in Glasgow, in 1991…The print has flying golden banners arching across the foreground emblazoned with the repeated refrain Passion, Imagination, Conscience. Did this mantra seep into the consciousness of us all, sitting in the cramped, humble premises in a fug of roll-up smoke? Reflecting on our long journey I can confirm that this is a call to action that we have, collectively and unequivocally responded to along the profoundly challenging pathway to becoming a Recognised Collection of National Significance.

Sam has continued to support our work, she is one of our stalwart champions and is amongst our celebrated cohort of 21 Revolutionaries. It was with enormous pride and pleasure that I could join in the celebrations as Sam was inducted as an Outstanding Women of Scotland at a ceremony hosted by GWL and Saltire Society this year, 21 years after she donated this work. Her demand for Passion, Imagination, Conscience remains as relevant as ever as we reflect on our past and look with hope to the future.

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How to Keep Speaking Out

Women’s Aid workers taking to the streets in Edinburgh for the 5 Specific Funds protest in 1999.



We’ve still got a few months to go before the conclusion of the project and lots of exciting things still to come but for a number of our volunteers, their active involvement with the project has either finished or is drawing to a close. Exhibition development is finished and the Speaking Out exhibition is out touring around Scotland (see here for info on exhibition dates and venues), the project film has been edited together and launched (watch it here if you haven’t seen it yet) and the oral history interviews are winding down (please contact Sarah Browne ASAP if you or someone you know has a particularly unique or important story to tell).

We’re very much looking forward to catching up with our volunteers next month and hearing all about their experiences and what they’ve gotten out of volunteering with the Speaking Out project. One of the questions we’re anticipating is, ‘What now? How can I stay involved and continue speaking out about issues that affect women?’. This is a question we often receive when delivering events. One instance in particular sticks in my mind: I was facilitating a workshop for a group of young women from the University of Edinburgh and, after viewing the exhibition and watching the project film, one young women approached me and asked, ‘How can we do that? How can we take our activism and make a real difference?’.

We are currently living in a time when women are mobilising in ways and in numbers that are extraordinary, taking to the streets to protect women’s rights and campaign for equality. From the Women’s March movement to fighting against the Family Cap and Rape Clause (info on the 20 Apr. demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament here and petition here), women are making their voices heard. Taking part in this groundswell of activity is one way to continue engaging with critical issues affecting women today and women’s history as it’s currently being made.

Investigating women’s organisations and local Women’s Aid groups within your community and how you can help out is another great way to stay involved, whether it’s a larger commitment like volunteering as a helpline call handler or something more one-off like organising an event or doing a fundraising challenge. Volunteering with youth organisations and starting a dialogue with young people around topics like gender inequality and healthy relationships is another key way of shaping change. Changing the attitudes of young people is how we change the attitudes of the future.

Finally, keep an eye out for other projects to support. For example, the #Scotswummin project is making it their mission to give Scots women their rightful place in history (we’re hoping to have a guest post from project researcher Lisa in the not too distant future). Our project partners, Women’s History Scotland and Glasgow Women’s Library, are both great places to find out about new ventures and opportunities.

Please feel free to add to this list in the comments if you have any ideas or know of any opportunities which might be of interest.


Be heard. Keep your voices loud. Keep speaking out.



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Paying it Forward for Collect:if Herland

This week we’re excited to announce our full line-up for our upcoming Herland curated by Collect:if. Collect:if is a GWL based network bringing together Women of Colour (WoC) who are established figures in the arts, culture and creative industries in Scotland and those who are developing their practice. For this Herland, Collect:if members from across Scotland are collaborating to bring together a truly ground-breaking evening of arts and cutting edge performances by women working across an array of genres. This promises to be a landmark evening when Women of Colour take to the stage, call the shots and showcase some of the best in performance, music, and food, blended with the welcoming, uplifting Herland flavour.

The fantastic line-up for this event includes: Sim Bajwa, Edinburgh based writer and contributor to Nasty Women; Sister, a collective who explore the experiences and challenges faced by mixed race Scottish women; Clan Macondo, a group who promote Latin American and AfroCaribbean culture through music and dance; the talented flautists Diljeet Bhachu and Hannah Lee; Suria Tei (Chiew-Siah Tei), author of ‘The Mouse Deer Kingdom’ and ‘Little Hut of Leaping Fishes’ and Nags Kamel, visual artist and filmmaker. This event is open to all and you can find more information here.

We are always striving to be as open, inclusive and accessible as possible with the majority of our events costing as little as £2 with free subsidised places for those who cannot afford to pay. Recently we introduced our Pay it Forward scheme for our new literary festival Open the Door, to ensure that as many women as possible can benefit from the unique literary event. From the success of this scheme, we have chosen to introduce a Pay it Forward fund specifically for Collect:if Herland, as we know that the subsidised ticket price of £10 is not affordable for all women and we hope to specifically enable more Women of Colour to attend this event.

The idea behind the scheme is simple: if you donate to the Pay it Forward fund, you’ll be supporting those who currently can’t afford the ticket price. In this instance, the fund will enable us to offer free tickets to Women of Colour who would not otherwise be able to attend, and also help us support the WoC creatives involved in the event.

By contributing to our Pay it Forward fund, you’ll be opening the door for others to experience something they may otherwise miss out on. So if you can, please consider contributing to the Pay it Forward fund by selecting the Pay it Forward donation on our Collect:if Herland event page.

We’d like to thank you for your generous contributions to Pay it Forward already for Open the Door, and let you know that we’ll be reflecting on the introduction of the scheme for Open the Door and Collect:if Herland at the end of May, so look out for more news on Pay it Forward then.

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Don’t Miss Our Exciting Story Café Special Featuring Fiona Macintosh!

On Thursday 27th April between 12:30 and 2:30pm, GWL is delighted to be welcoming artist, human rights advocate and writer Fiona Macintosh in a very special Story Café as she shares with us a tale that she has utterly devoted herself to—Rosa of the Wild Grass, the Story of a Nicaraguan Family.

It is a gripping account of a true story chronicling the later half-decade of the small but mighty Central American republic. Macintosh weaves a fascinatingly intimate and deeply moving family narrative, brining to life the chaos, loss and triumph of personal and political events with such emotion and vividness that you will surely learn more about this little country’s history in these 260 pages than you ever could in a textbook.

The novel follows Rosa and three all-female generations of her family as they navigate and reflect on the extreme hardship of existence under the Somoza dictatorship and the carnage of the insurrection which ended it. Rosa and her family endure as they watch and feel the hope birthed by the 1979 Sandinista Revolution, and are crushed by the Revolution’s eventual end in the massacre and cruelty of the Contra War. Rosa emerges as a different woman into the years of neo-liberalism and subsequent retreat from much of the progressiveness achieved, and, like the rest of her family, struggles to keep hope, national pride and community spirit alive behind closed doors.

Intertwined with these larger, global-scale events, Rosa also gives us a raw insight into the more fascinatingly subtle plights of her people as we witness a region which is struggling with endemic alcoholism, domestic violence and the rise of drug cartels, country-wide literacy issues and unemployment figures, huge gaps in faith and wealth and attitudes to the war, but also the birth of health campaigns, trade unions, migration and, not least of all, a gender politics that highlights the strength of women’s networking, and the importance of their means of survival and co-operative ventures; with an emphasis placed on how vital the support of extended families and other women truly is.

Rosa of the Wild Grass is a dramatic and enthralling read, with Macintosh delivering a detailed, intelligent and loving description of a country in its death throes, but a people waiting to be reborn. If you’re interested in hearing more about the novel and the inspiration behind it and the strong women within it, what fascinates Macintosh so much about Nicaragua, or if you simply want to enjoy and afternoon of escapism with some tea and treats, then this is the Story Café for you!

This event is 16+ and open to all. There is no need to book. This event costs £2 full price and you can pay on the day. We offer subsidised and/or free places for students, people on a low income, unemployed or those in receipt of benefit/Friends of GWL.

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Walks this Spring!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Springtime here at GWL, and what better way to celebrate than with the return of our ever popular Heritage Walks! We began with Women of the Gorbals on Saturday 1st April – this walk will be on again on Sunday 21st May – taking us over the Clyde to stop at various landmarks, streets and buildings with accompanying stories about women, work and domesticity from the 19th century to now. The walks are carefully researched and complimented by stories about individual women who made a difference to the community; women that were left out of the history books, but nevertheless made history.

Past participants have lauded the welcoming walks for their highly informative tour guides (aw shucks…) and of course the fascinating stories about ordinary and extraordinary Glasgow women; in the East End learn about ‘the Barras Queen’ Maggie McIver who built the famous Barrowland ballroom, Betty McAllister who organised a protest when PM Thatcher visited Templeton, and poet Agnes Craig and her love affair with Robert Burns. In Garnethill, hear of the women who shaped Glasgow School of Art, and in the Gorbals, be astonished by tales of the highly influential suffragettes! It’s a great opportunity to meet other women for a blether, and for a bit of exercise!

Our next walk will be in Merchant City on Sunday 23rd April, and further walks in the East End, Necropolis, West End and Garnethill will be held in the next five weekends afterwards. Dates can be found in our brochure, or online and bookings must be made in advance. It costs £10 per person full price to attend the walk or £6 for a subsidised ticket.  Children under 15 can come for free, so it’s a great family outing, an excuse to explore your city deeper and learn something about Glasgow’s women that you may not learn at school. Looking forward to seeing you on a walk soon!


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Five Books

During a two month placement at Glasgow Women’s Library, I was given the task of cataloguing the print collection by the late Glasgow artist, Hannah Frank. Along with these literary inspired, fantastical prints was a cardboard box of Frank’s book collection, in which I searched through the books for clues of her artistic inspiration. In doing so, I learned more about Hannah Frank. Here is a selection of five of her books and the insight they give us into the life and artistic inspiration of the artist.

  1. Rainer Maria Rilke, The Lay of Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke, (1948).

This book is included not because of the book itself, but due to what fell out as I flicked through the pages. Hannah Frank was not only a fine artist, but also a keen poet; her prints were often published alongside accompanying poems with corresponding themes in the Glasgow University Magazine. Amongst poetry anthologies, I found a biography of Robert Burns in the cardboard box. When searching through The Lay of Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke, an enveloped letter addressed to a friend fell from the pages, on which was a handwritten poem:

‘I remember her
The bay spread out before me
And deep below the town
Where light
Were twinkling in the night.
When the last flight of birds
Has like the sky,
I remember so well every word that Jon* said.’

  1. The Jerusalem Bible, New Testament.

Religion was hugely formative throughout Hannah Frank’s life. As a member of the Glasgow committee of the Friends of the Hebrew University, she often donated sculptures and drawings to help in fundraising appeals. Drawings similar to the ones in the collection were used to illustrate newsletters of the Scottish Jewish Archive centre. Job and Purim Carnival are both notable examples from the GWL collection of her Jewish heritage influencing her work.

Purim Carnival, 1933

Purim Carnival, 1933, (Accessed 07/04/2017).

 Job, 1933

Job, 1933, (Accessed 07/04/2017).

  1. Thomas Bulfinch, The Age of Fable, (First edition 1855).

Much of Frank’s work has an ethereal fantastical element, covering themes of fairies, forests, meadows, and overwhelming starry night skies – no doubt influenced by her interest in myths, legends and fables.

4. The Oxford Book of German Verse.

In addition to books written in German, Frank’s collection has works in both Latin and French. These multilingual books are all highly annotated and clearly used for studying. She studied various subjects at Glasgow University, but had a particular talent for languages.

  1. Sue Grafton, L is for Lawless, (1996).

Hannah Frank owned three of this series of crime thrillers; I is for Innocent, K is for Killer and L is for Lawless. Hannah Frank passed away in 2008 and with the publishing date at 1996, she probably read this crime thriller between the age of 88 and 100. Her keen interest in literature began in her early years, continued to be formative to her artwork, and remained with her throughout her life. 

*This name was illegible in the handwritten script.

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GWL – An Outstanding Museum

Did you know we’re the only Accredited Museum in the UK dedicated to women’s history? In fact, we’re a multi-award winning Accredited Museum and in December 2015 we were also designated as a ‘Recognised Collection of National Significance’.

Items in the collection are all donated, making of a rich, diverse and coherent assemblage of artefacts and archives exemplifying the lives of women, charting their historical and contemporary achievements and contributions. From knitting patterns, recipe books and Girls’ Annuals, to Suffragette memorabilia and Radical Feminist campaigning materials, the constantly growing collection contextualizes the linkages across the many spheres that women inhabit within the ‘personal’ and the ‘political.’ With items that date from the early nineteenth century, our collection champions, celebrates and teaches us about how women have shaped lives, families, communities and the country.

We’re really proud of our Museum status and our collections and so Maddy, one of our talented volunteers, put together an amazing video that highlights GWL as an Outstanding Museum. Take a look at the video below.


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Abortion, Contraception and the Collection

It is over two years ago now that I first visited the Glasgow Women’s Library and it truly was love at first sight. A combination of gender courses that I had taken previously and this visit shaped my decision to focus my history dissertation on women’s experiences of contraception. Fondly reminiscing now I can remember being nestled in a corner of the library, going through the rich family planning archive, whilst listening in on poetry readings, live music playing, art workshops crafting and book-clubs discussing: soaking up the electric atmosphere of positivity and inspiration from these creative women.

Fast forwarding two years on, I am now studying a Masters in Museum Studies, and I got my dream placement of working and being a part of the GWL. A condition of my placement is to conduct research and write a blog post on some objects from the collections. So, given my previous history with the GWL, I thought it only fitting to do my blog about the topic which brought me to value the library so much. As well, the recent events around the world regarding abortion and reproductive rights, provide infuriating examples of why it is more important than ever to continue campaigning for reproductive rights. So, without further-ado, let me start by stating that as a feminist and as a woman it is crucial to me to have complete control over my body: this to me is a basic human right which every woman is entitled to. However, this is far from the in case, even now in 2017.

At the end of 2016 Poland were proposing a total ban on abortion but thousands of women defiantly went on strike and “Black Monday” went global. Ridiculously, women found to have had abortions would be punished with a five-year prison term under this ban.[1] Thankfully, under massive social pressure from the protests, the lawmakers voted against it overwhelmingly 352 to 58.[2] Reason and sense prevailed, yay! It was reported that the protestors held signs with messages stating “keep your rosaries off my ovaries.”[3] Excitingly, the GWL have a badge in their museum collection which has this exact message on it.

The striking visual design of the badge has rosary beads in the shape of a uterus and the slogan refers to how the Catholic Church and its followers tend to be anti-abortion on the premise that all life should be protected. Also, they tend to reject most forms of contraception apart from abstinence and coitus interruptus.

The striking visual design of the badge has rosary beads in the shape of a uterus and the slogan refers to how the Catholic Church and its followers tend to be anti-abortion on the premise that all life should be protected. Also, they tend to reject most forms of contraception apart from abstinence and coitus interruptus.

Poland inspired activists in the Republic of Ireland to follow suit and they went on strike just this month. Amazingly, through my research I have discovered an online gallery called X-ile which features women who have had abortions from Ireland to try and reduce the stigma attached and raise awareness.[4] Art has always been and always will be one of the best ways to express human emotion and to prompt discussion regarding taboo subjects.

Zine about Abortion

This zine contains an honest and real-life depiction of a woman’s experience of getting an abortion. The key message it conveys is that it is emotional and scary but all in all it is a simple and safe medical procedure. Creative outlets like this are healthy for the individual but they are also incredibly important tools to raise awareness and to start taboo discussions amongst the public.

Now, I feel it would not be right to mention the recent events in the USA under the order of “he who shall not be named”. The global gag rule which was put in place under President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and has since experienced a volatile on/off existence is yet again back on under Republican authority and refuses to provide funding for any reproductive authorities who give advice about abortion.[5] This action came just two days after massive women’s marches around the world. One women tweeted “we won’t go back to coat hanger medicine”[6] which harrowingly refers to a method desperate women can resort to.

Abortion on Demand badge

This visibly dirty and evidently very well-worn badge is a simple yet powerful way to show society what your political alignments and beliefs are in a respectful and fun way. This slogan refers to illegal and unregulated abortion methods; these ‘backstreet’ clinics can be very unsafe for women and can result in death in extreme cases. The coat hanger method is perilous and is not necessary with modern medicine.

An example of the global impact this will have is in India as there are 11 million abortions in the country – out of which five million are unsafe – even though abortion is LEGAL in India.[7] In some areas, 80 per cent of women do not know this astonishingly, and many take matters into their own hands using untested herbal remedies or visiting backstreet clinics. Sadly a lack of information, knowledge of a safe facility and stigma stops Indian women accessing information regarding abortion, and evidently, contraception too.[8]

National Abortion Campaign Pamphlet

In this informative pamphlet by the National Abortion Campaign it includes articles written by lecturers and activists relating to abortion in the 1970s in many different countries the world over including Chile, Japan, Bangladesh and China. However, there is an article about India in 1976, and it states that the Indian government were forcing families of three or more to have sterilisations and they were encouraging men to have vasectomies by giving those who went through with it free gifts such as money, radios and cloth as a way to combat the rapidly increasing population. India’s population remains one of only two countries in the world with over a billion to this day.

Much closer to home the struggle continues fiercely. In Northern Ireland – just a mere few days ago – the Police Service of Northern Ireland raided two premises searching for abortion pills that are illegal in the region.[9] One Northern Ireland pro-choice activist has called for the central British government to ensure no human rights breaches occur in the UK. Healthcare is devolved to Northern Ireland at Stormont, but a November 2015 high court ruling found that the Northern Irish abortion ban is a breach of international human rights legislation.[10] The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has said that talks are going to take place to see if Northern Irish women could get free abortions from the Scottish NHS.[11] This compassionate gesture of goodwill to our friends within the union is inspiring, however, it should not have to be the case and it won’t solve the problems women face regarding taking time off work and paying to travel abroad to seek abortions.

Free Abortion on Demand badge

In this badge a woman is shackled with chains but she is throwing up her arms in defiance and has an angry expression on her face. For years reproductive rights campaigners in Northern Ireland have been trying to change the law to make it legal for women to access abortions, however, presently in 2017 this is still not the case. Many women travel to Scotland, England and Wales to book into private clinics which at 14-19 weeks pregnant under sedation costs in total £927 at Marie Stopes clinics.[12] This is just one example out of many which show that abortions are a class issue as well as a political and religious one.

However, it is not all doom and gloom as there is major steps forward taking place in regards to male contraceptives. A male pill is being tested: the effects are almost instant and it would only take a few days to wear off in comparison to the female pill which can take months.[13] Additionally, a non-hormonal male injection has been created which is the equivalent to a reversible vasectomy.[14] Both of these would help relieve the burden women have regarding contraception as the only other two male contraceptives available are vasectomies and condoms which have obvious drawbacks of their own. If these new contraceptives are to become available it will be interesting to see how many men take on the responsibility, to document the backlash they receive – if any as we know that by living in a patriarchal society that double-standards are common – from conservative politicians, religious authorities and pro-life activists as well as to record whether venereal diseases increase.

Safe Sex Mug

This adorable pink mug is advocating for condom usage for men. It depicts a penis getting ready for a “big night out” with the condom being the equivalent to a top-hat. Condoms are an easy and effective method of contraception but most importantly it is one of the only forms of contraception that helps decrease the risk of contracting an STI which is still a major problem the world over.

But please, do not despair! The activism of women, pro-choice organisations and political stances nations have taken recently is just the ray of hope we need in this dark and gloomy atmosphere we find ourselves in. Things like Gynopedia (a site that provides free information about where to seek contraception and advice in cities around the world)[15] have risen like a phoenix from the ashes from the burning down of some of our predecessors’ hard work.

The solidarity of protestors globally in January 2017 and for IWD is moving to see; GWL does boast a small but growing collection of objects which women have made for the marches which include pussyhats, banners and more!

Pussy Hat

This amazing and cosy hand knitted pussyhat was worn by Lea Stern at the Washington D.C women’s march in 21st January 2017. Over 1 million women marched in D.C and over 5 million worldwide against Trump and as a sign of solidarity.[16] The name pussyhat is a way of re-appropriating the word ‘pussy’ in a positive way[17] and this contemporary artefact is proof that there are people out there who believe in advancing women’s rights and aren’t afraid to show it.

A brief shout-out to the first ladies of reproductive rights, Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes, though I would be scared to see what their responses are to the fact we are still fighting for the same cause hundred years on. Evidently the struggle still continues today and many women, myself included, feel passionate about what we think is right and are frustrated with the snail-pace progress and the lack of support from politicians. It is a divisive subject in which opinions vary extensively but the Planned Parenthood’s mantra of ‘let all women decide for themselves’[18] definitely works for me.




















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Speaking Out in Inverness

Project volunteer Margaret Moore takes us on a tour of the Speaking Out exhibition which was on display in Inverness during March. The exhibition is currently on show in the Pathfoot Building at the University of Stirling until 16 June. All exhibition touring venues and dates are listed on our events page. Please check with individual venues for opening times.


I’m one of the volunteer interviewers who took part in the Speaking Out project marking the 40th anniversary of Scottish Women’s Aid in 2016. I was keen to see the result of our efforts when the exhibition came to Inverness.  Up here, the exhibition was in two parts; one part in the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery in the centre of the city and the other in the Highland Archive Centre a little way out. This was a bit challenging as you really needed to visit both to get the full effect.

I went to the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery first. The exhibition was in the Discovery Room, used for educational visits and events. This part of the exhibition had panels on the walls covering Collective Working, A Gendered Analysis of Domestic Abuse, Working with Children and the work of the Dobashes. There was also a case displaying leaflets and Women’s Aid memorabilia along with a handbag loaned by a domestic abuse survivor, the only thing she took, apart from her young son, when fleeing her abuser.  The bag was my favourite thing. I had one like it and used to rub cream into it to keep it nice. Good, respectable black leather, caught up in dread and fear when she fled.

A few days later I got the car out and went to the Highland Archive Centre. I’m so glad I did as it greatly added to the experience of the exhibition. The archive centre is a new building by the River Ness.  Set up in the spacious, light foyer were six large information panels, separated by a small table and – the jewel at the heart of it all, in my view – a listening station where you could hear some of the recorded interviews.  The panels began with an explanation of the 40th anniversary of Scottish Women’s Aid and the Speaking Out project, went on to delve into attitudes towards abuse back in the 1970’s and how  Women’s Aid worked to change them,  the refuges, the special  circumstances of black and ethnic minority women. The relationship between Women’s Aid and the Women’s Liberation Movement was explored and there was a photo of a handwritten list with the 7 Demands of the WLM. No 1 is “Equal Pay for Equal Work”, No 2 “Equal Job Opportunities”.  This was the first time I’d seen the 7 Demands. Legal and political changes affecting and resulting from Women’s Aid campaigns were detailed, including devolution, and the panels brought the situation up to the present day with a map showing locations of the local Women’s Aid groups across Scotland. The panels were in the Women’s Aid colours of turquoise and purple with information interspersed by photos, diagrams and quotes from women who played a part.

The listening station had interviews from service users, support workers, people in government and academic researchers. I loved this wormhole into history. It was easy to use and the sound was clear.

My take-away from the exhibition? I didn’t realise how many changes in the law were brought about by Women’s Aid and the Women’s Movement: re-housing abused women, stalking, harassment, forced marriage, sexual abuse, human trafficking and, with the help of others, the Equal Pay, Sexual Discrimination and Equal Opportunities Acts (superseded now by the Equality Act 2010). It was great to hear Marilyn Ross again via the listening station, laying out her story as she did across the table from me when I interviewed her, and interesting to listen to the other women whose interviews were featured, particularly Nicola Borthwick explaining how, for six years, she couldn’t attach the idea of abuse to what was happening to her.

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