Another archive treasure – and a poem

A couple of months ago I posted about some of the Suffragette treasures we have in our archive; the beautiful brooch in the Suffragette colours, lilac, white and green; the witty postcards. And I intimated there were more treasures to be revealed.

With its miserable man and unhappy babies this seems to bear an anti-suffragette message
With its miserable man and unhappy babies this seems to bear an anti-suffragette message.



And just so that you get the idea of the three-dimensionality of this clock, here’s another photo:


You only see the clock face when you look directly at it.
You only see the clock face when you look directly at it.


Well, I was so taken with this unusual clock-cum-paperweight and its playfully-coded message that I wrote a poem about it.


A Time Piece of its Time

Anti-Suffragette Clock in Glasgow Women’s Library Archive


At first glance such a pretty thing!

A gleaming paperweight, crafted to grace

the master’s desk; a perfect globe, moulded from

solid glass, its clever cogs and wheels designed to operate

with the clockwork efficiency of a masculine mind.


Inside, weary and woebegone, a night-shirted man

holds two howling bairns, while circling widdershins

–  a she-devil’s work surely?  – N E M O W R O F E T O V

Why, you can almost hear the laughter over brandies and cigars

at the foolishness of those silly suffragettes.


I lift it up. Snugly it fits my female fist,

a gleaming glass grenade, girdled with brass,

heavy enough to smash a man’s skull

with one delicate blow – oh who would ever know

it was little Mrs Wifey in her husband’s library?


Or even better, a mischievous maid might

tie to its brass top ring some lengths of pretty ribbon –

purple, white, green – a wrecking ball to swing

against the walls of her master’s misogyny.


Or maybe it’s a crystal ball? Complete with

warning vision of a backward future. But

you were no clairvoyants, my father’s father’s fathers;

rather you were foolish King Canutes

trying to stop a feisty female tide.


And you, my dear moustachioed homunculus,

left holding your screaming, motherless bairns,

that tick tock tick tock tick tock you hear, growing

ever louder in your ear is not this time-piece ticking,

but the Onward March of Progress, of none less

than the Monstrous Regiment of Women.


I pity you, red-faced and miserable little man,

frozen in the nightmare of your needless fear –

a curious museum piece, outdated as a dinosaur.


Magi Gibson, May 2013


For GWL’s 21 Revolutions project, Vicki Feaver also felt inspired to write a poem about the same clock. Jackie Kay wrote two poems about our beautiful model South Asian house, made by women who moved to Glasgow from South Asia along with ur BME worker, Syma Ahmed, so they could explore their memories of the homes they’d left behind.

Maybe you should come in and visit our archive some time? You never know, you might be moved to write a poem yourself!

Or if you prefer reading, come in and browse our amazing 21 Revolutions short story and poetry collections, featuring new work from amazing writers like Zoe Wicomb, Louise Welsh, Janice Galloway and others.

You know, we’ll always have a cup of tea waiting for you…


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  • Posted 14th May, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Great poem, Magi. Good to see the timepiece in pictures too, but your poem really brings it and all the issues round the women’s suffrage movement to life! Alison x

  • Posted 14th May, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Alison. I was reading a poem of yours called Wedding in the Fresh Oceans anthology just yesterday. A very beautiful and tender poem. x

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