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Modern Times: 1950s to The Present Day

Learning and Beliefs


By Sue Innes

Feminism re-emerged in Glasgow, as elsewhere, in two main arenas: women's trade unionism and the women's liberation movement. Women in Glasgow factories took part in British-wide action for equal pay. The Scottish Trade Union Council women's committee (formed in 1926) worked on equal pay, childcare and women's role in unions. It went on to play a central part in the campaign for "fifty-fifty" representation in the Scottish Parliament. Women's liberation groups began meeting in the West End in the early 1970s, creating a new kind of "sexual politics", although grounded in Glaswegian left-wing, radical culture. Collective working and consciousness-raising were emphasised; there were workshops, campaigns and parties. The Glasgow Women's Centre opened "up a close" in Miller Street in 1975. Work on violence against women was an early and continuing focus, leading to Glasgow Women's Aid, the Strathclyde Rape Crisis Centre and the Women's Support Project. The Scottish Abortion Campaign protested against attempts to change the law with demonstrations and street theatre. Art and women-only discos were important, as were international links. Feminist underground publications, Hen's Own and Nessie, show the ambition and diversity of issues addressed.

Again as elsewhere, early energy and sisterhood were followed by fragmentation. Socialist-feminists met in the "Flaming Women" group. A conference in Partick led to a Scotland-wide lesbian-feminist movement. The first Scottish African women's organisation was formed in Glasgow in 1988, followed by the women's centre, Meridian. Feminists moved into the peace and environment movements and into political parties. Council women's committees did pioneering work and International Women's Day, on 8 March, became an annual celebration. The first purpose-built women's centre in Scotland was opened in Maryhill in 1994. The Glasgow Women's Health Group went on to do internationally recognised work on gender and health.

In 1992 the quality magazine Harpies & Quines picked up the agenda. The independent Scottish report to the UN women's conference in 1995 called for work on women and decision-making, violence against women and poverty. "Women in Profile" held a festival in 1990 and began a collection that became the Glasgow Women's Library – a unique resource, still up a close. Pornography, prostitution and sexual exploitation are current concerns. New groups continue to be formed, such as the Scottish Women's Budget Group in 2000, and in 2002 the Cailleach Collective, which aims "to make feminism cool again".

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