Jean Girdwood: Walking into Happiness

My name is Jean Girdwood and I first heard about Glasgow Women’s Library in 2006, through Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where I am a voluntary guide. The library was looking for people to help with a project called Women Make History. This was to be made up of women who were born in Glasgow and also women who came to Glasgow to live and have made a significant difference to the city.

Women Make History researchers
Jean Girdwood (left) doing research for Women Make History

The staff, leaders and my peers have been instrumental in promoting Glasgow Women’s History to every corner of Glasgow. We were encouraged to research both historical and living Glasgow Women who individually made a difference to the city both in the arts, sciences, education, politics etc, and not forgetting the ordinary or should I say extraordinary women of Glasgow who were/are an integral part of the development and history of Glasgow.

I was immediately impressed by the very positive attitude of everyone at these meetings and the ideas were flowing. A development group was formed for the project and there were about 10 of us. It was decided that we would all be involved in researching these Glasgow women and we put a large map up so that we could highlight which area of the city these women came from and attached written info about them to the map. After a few meetings it was agreed that we should create a walking tour around the west end of the city and relate the info we had gathered on the women.

This walk was all about the history of Glasgow from car designers to women in education at the beginning of the 19th century and their part in making degree courses available to all women. The suffragettes and their great struggle to gain the vote for women, women in the arts including artists, writers and designers.

West End Women's Heritage Walk outside the University of Glasgow
West End Women's Heritage Walk outside the University of Glasgow

I am one of the guides for these walks and the most memorable part for me was the surprise of the participants at the facts about these Glasgow women which made the research even more worthwhile and also noting how much they all enjoyed the walk. We had a group of 20 for the first booked walk, and I was feeling a little apprehensive but I need not have fretted because I discovered as we were walking and talking that quite a number of the group were making comments e.g. “I didn’t know that”, “I must find out more about that”, “I never heard of her before”, “we should tell others”, this feedback inspired me greatly and still does. This has been evident on all the walks I have done up till now and I know it will continue.

I have tried to give a little flavour of my work with this group which is of course ongoing. The library collection and the services which they offer are vital to the people and the City of Glasgow. The library has had a number of enquiries from other organizations who have either been on the walk or have heard about what the library is doing and they meet with them so that they can set up similar walks in their own towns or other projects.

The volunteering opportunities within the library are invaluable. I personally have benefited greatly from my work with the group and have an even greater respect and interest in Glasgow and its history and what’s still to come. All of the other volunteers whom I have met agree that their lives have been truly enhanced and made richer by their involvement with the Women’s Library and this is ongoing.

Glasgow Women’s Library demonstrates imagination and innovation, changes lives, brings people together and is very creative. Fun, fun, fun is to be had at the library and this is the best therapy of all.

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