Glasgow’s ‘wee wifey’ has always been a character – and a particularly feared one if she hailed from the city’s industrial East End. Toil, sacrifice and making-do were her virtues.
In the West End towards the end of the 19th century she had more of an opportunity for betterment and her environment was less harsh. But, as in the UK as a whole, society still viewed her as second class and less able than her male counterpart. But Glasgow’s reputation has always been one of a ‘feisty’ city and its women lived up to that accolade.
Glasgow Women’s Library’s fascinating Walking Tours introduce you to the pioneering female ‘Weegies’ – the fighting feminists who changed attitudes and lives forever.
From the female clippies to Glagow Uni’s first skirt-wearing graduate and the sisterly suffrages who indulged in physical warfare, the 90 minute walks are a fascinating insight into the fighting female psyche of Glasgow’s women – many of whom remain unremarked on to this day yet paved the way in equality terms and respect for thousands of their daughters and grand-daughters for decades yet to unfold.
Marion Gilchrist showed women were worthy of intellectual recognition when she graduated with a distinction in medicine in 1894 (the first female to do so in Glasgow for 400 years!). Less than a decade later Hannah Watson and Janet Spens set up the first private school for girls.
In the working classes they were forging ahead too. Partick resident, the pipe-smoking Rachel Johnston joined the shipyards as a labourer and took a stint as a special constable during riots.
When it came to all-important politics, Helen Crawfurd stepped in to prevent women losing their homes during the Great War when she put her excellent debating and political organising skills to the fore during the city’s infamous rent rises.
Militant suffragettes Helen Crawfurd, Dorothea Chalmers Smith, Jessie Stephen and Frances McPhun deserve a name check too. These women brought voting rights for the ‘weaker sex’ to the fore and frightened city elders into the realisation ‘rights for women’ were a cause they couldn’t afford to ignore.
The tales of these women and more are available now to download via a podcast from www.womenslibrary.org.uk A silent guided walk will also take place during the West End Festival on Sun, June 19. Those wishing to take part should meet at Kelvingrove Gallery at 2pm.
More information on the Women’s Library, including details of other city walks such as the Merchant City tour, is available from the group’s website.