Final Programme

‘SHALL WE NOT SPEAK FOR OURSELVES?’ History, Herstory, Your Story

Women for Independence celebrates International Women’s Day

Bonar Hall Dundee, Saturday 5 March, 10.30 – 4.00


10.00     Arrivals, registration, refreshments

10.30    Welcome and Introduction -  Rosemary Hunter, WFI National Committee

10.45    Setting the Scene Women who widnae haud their wheesht  (Lesley Orr, WFI)

11.30    WORKSHOPS (choose one before lunch and another in the afternoon)

  1. A Gude Cause – The Suffrage Movement in Scotland (Elspeth King, Director of the Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling). The session will look at suffrage issues in Scotland from the 1790s onwards when Muir, Palmer and Skirving were sent to Botany Bay. It will touch on Chartism, Owenite Co-operation, Black  Emancipation and the Temperance movements, all of which were important for the women's suffrage movement. The prtesentation will feature about 80 images of the suffrage movement in Scotland. Time will be spent on how the movement was different from that of England, and what lessons can be learned from the movement today.


  1. These Dangerous Women – the women who tried to stop World War One (Helen Kay and Anne Scott, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom).

'These Dangerous Women' is a short film that tells the story of the British suffragists who tried to attend an international meeting of women in the middle of World War One.  Scottish women sent resolutions, and a Scots suffragist, Chrystal Macmillan, was one of the organisers.  The women protested against the war and discussed how war could be avoided in future: they then delegated five women to travel through war torn countries to take their message of mediated settlement of international disputes to all the Heads of State in Europe, and the US President.  But history has forgotten to remember these dangerous women.  Anne and Helen will discuss how issues raised by the women in 1915 are still relevant.'   

Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

  1. Women as active citizens – Interwar feminism and political education in Scotland (Valerie Wright, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow).

The interwar years were a time of great change in Scotland, economically, socially and culturally. While this period is traditionally portrayed by historians as a time in which women experienced a ‘backlash’ and a ‘return to domesticity’ following the First World War, in fact women were entering public life in greater numbers than before. Many women’s organisations encouraged ‘active citizenship’ among their members after women gained the vote in 1918 (well some women over 30). What did this mean? Well basically getting involved in politics – both locally and nationally. This could involve standing as candidates for education or health committees on the local council, standing as councillors or standing as MPs. It could also mean canvassing on behalf of others or getting involved in campaigns for improved housing, maternity care or the demand of equal pay or equal access to the professions. Political actions could also be simply challenging the status quo and insisting on time of your own to attend a meeting or demonstration in your local village hall. The demands of women’s organisations in interwar Scotland were varied and not all were feminist, but this didn’t mean they weren’t political.

At a point in our history when economic downturn resulted in the rise of conservative ideas about women’s place in society, come and find out how women were able to make their voices heard.

  1. Rent Strikes! 1915 and all that (Ann Petrie, Honorary Research and Teaching Fellow at the University of Dundee)

One of the most famous episodes during the First World War was the 1915 rent strike in Glasgow, led by Mary Barbour of Govan and her army of women. Their campaign took on the profiteer landlords and the government -  and won. Housing rents were capped for the duration of the war.  However, the success of the west-coast strikers owed much to the national mood, especially along the east coast of Scotland, in Dundee, Aberdeen, Kirkcaldy and Leith. Ann Petrie’s book, The 1915 Rent Strikes: An East Coast Perspective tells that story, and the workshop will be an opportunity to find out more about this national women-led movement for justice.

  1. Sisterhood is Powerful: Learning about and from Women's Liberation in Scotland. (Sarah Browne, Sandie Wyles and Chris Aldred)

This workshop will discuss the Women's Liberation Movement and will hear from activists who were involved in the movement. The Women's Liberation Movement emerged in Scotland in the late 1960s and set about encouraging women to liberate themselves from doing all the domestic chores, low paid work and the pressures placed on all women to look and behave a certain way. Often coming up with new and inventive ways of campaigning, the WLM contributed to changing and challenging views about women. The workshop will hear from two women who were involved in the groups in Aberdeen, Stirling and St Andrews and will ask the question what can we learn from the Women's Liberation Movement and how can we apply these lessons to campaigns today?


  1. More Than Pioneers: Women in a Man's World  (Nina Baker, Engineering Historian and Consultant on Gender Diversity in STEM)

Women working in engineering and technology are often still working in a 'man's world'. After a short illustrated introduction from Nina Baker, on the herstorical context, we will share any family herstories from participants and discuss why pioneers may not be the solution for lasting change. Ask your mum, aunty, grannie if any of the women in your family did technical work, perhaps during the two world wars. Or come prepared to share any story you have come across about women doing technical work any time past or present.

  1. ‘Speaking Out’ and Rocking the Status Quo– the early years of Women’s Aid in Scotland, and the 40th anniversary project (Lesley Orr,University of Edinburgh/’Speaking Out’ Steering Group, and Ria Sloan, project Development Officer)

2016 marks 40 years since Scottish Women’s Aid was created, bringing together a network of local Women’s Aid groups active the length and breadth of Scotland. To celebrate and mark this important anniversary, Scottish Women’s Aid in partnership with Glasgow Women’s Library, Glasgow University Centre for Gender History and Women’s History Scotland has been awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to gather oral histories and document the 40 year history of Women’s Aid in Scotland. The movement emerged out of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s as a response by some activists who wanted to provide practical support to women who were experiencing domestic violence and abuse. In doing so they created a network of refuges so women could seek sanctuary, contributed to policy and legal developments on the issue of violence against women and were influential in helping to change views in Scottish society about the issue of domestic abuse and gender inequality. Lesley will share some voices and stories from the early years, when this feminist movement really ‘rocked the status quo’, then Ria will outline plans for this exciting project – and how you can get involved.

Speaking Out: Recalling Women’s Aid in Scotland  is supported by the  Heritage Lottery Fund

  1. From there to here(Selma Rahman, Sajda Qadir)

When someone leaves’ there’ and comes ‘here’, what remains ? What is lost in the new life?  What is tradition?  Is is sacrificed? Does the older generation yearn for the past? And are ‘we’ to be viewed only by labels and names apportioned to us by ‘others’.: migrant, minorities, incomers?

An opportunity to join a conversation around diaspora, losses, gains, and explore how we are really …’all connected’.  

Sajda Qadir  is CEO at Blue Canyon Ltd. Having grown up in a entrepreneurial family, Sajda  learnt from a young age the ‘value of hard work and dedication in all you undertake.’She carries these values through to her personal life too. Mother of 3, she believes in ‘traditional family values’ .Sajda ‘lives to volunteer in charities as much as she can’.

Selma Rahman born in Edinburgh, lived and worked in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Having worked in the voluntary sector for 20 years, she set up esar consultants 13 years ago. A member of Edinburgh WFI, she is also a member of WFI National Committee.


  1. Dundee Women’s Trail(Mary Henderson, Kate Armstrong, Moira Foster)

The Dundee Women’s Trail celebrates just a few amazing women whose lives touched this city. Join Kate as we take a walk in their  shoes (max 12) – or stay behind with Mary and learn about the many diverse and remarkable women who have contributed to this unique ‘women’s city’. Moira will lead a lunchtime walk.


12.30    LUNCH (bring your own or go local) – opportunities to continue exploring and celebrating our Scottish foresisters:

  • Join Moira to walk the Dundee Women’s Trail

  • If you’re not going to These Dangerous Women workshop, watch the film

  • Take time to contribute your own information and stories about women’s lives in Scotland’s past – women from your family tree, local activists, hidden gems – they’re all part of the great tapestry.


13.30    A Petrol Scented Spring - Author Ajay Close has written a novel about the Scottish suffragettes, A Petrol Scented Spring, which was published last autumn. It has been longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical fiction. Ajay will give an illustrated talk on the suffragettes who were force fed in Perth Prison (a subject which is central to her novel).

14.10     Second running of workshop sessions (but note, there will be no Dundee Women’s Trail walk during this session)

15.10     Plenary session – gathering up threads and themes from the day.

What has inspired us; what have we learnt? Where do we go from here?

15.50     Songs of women’s protest and solidarity – with Priscilla Webster and Alison Muir

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