Women Who Shaped Glasgow To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, I thought that I would take a look at one of my favorite women from Glasgow's rich history. There are plentiful, however, here is my top choice for today:


International Women's Day 2021 - Women Who Shaped Glasgow

by Maisie Wilson

Mary Barbour

To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, I thought that I would take a look at one of my favorite women from Glasgow's rich history. There are plentiful, however, here is my top choice for today:

Mary Barbour
Political Activist
1875 - 1958

Mary Barbour, born in a small village in Renfrewshire, moved to Glasgow with her husband and young son, and settled in Govan. It was here that she became politically active. Barbour led the South Govan Women’s Housing Association –this association was pivotal in the Glasgow Rent Strikes.

The Glasgow Rent Strikes are a fundamental thread in this city's political tapestry. During the first world war, Landlords attempted to exploit tenants, threatening to raise rents by 25%. Tenants of Glasgow refused to pay the increases and began to stage mass demonstrations. Many families were already struggling financial with the impact of war hitting hard.

The police were seen to support the evictions, so Mary Barbour took things into her own hands. It was Mary, along with protestors known as “Mrs Barbour’s Army”, that drove away bailiffs that were threatening to evict strikers. Collectively, more than 25,000 working class families came together and refused to pay rent. Women took to the streets, with large demonstrations converging in St Enoch Square. Trade unions even threatened factory strikes if attempted evictions continued.

On the 17th November 2015, legal action against the strikers halted and the State Secretary of Scotland proposed to freeze all rents at pre-war levels.

Mary Barbour protested along with infamous political activists and suffragists such as Agnes Dollan and Helen Crawfurd. I remember learning about the Rent Strikes at school and finding them so incredibly interesting that I wrote an essay on the fierce Mary Barbour and her contribution to Red Clydeside. Unfortunately, this story largely goes untold. These women don’t deserve to be written out of the Scottish history books. So today, we shall remember the fierce work of Mary Barbour in fighting for the rights of the people of Glasgow. Thankfully, a few years ago on International Women’s Day, Mary Barbour’s efforts were immortalised, with a statue of herself followed by fellow rent strikers was built at Govan Cross. Long may she be remembered!

Mary Barbour Statue

Find out more about the great Mary Barbour here: https://remembermarybarbour.wordpress.com/