McMeekin. E, New artwork to celebrate the life of Govan heroine, Herald Scotland, 2012

By Elizabeth McMeekin

SHE is known as one of the most influential women in Glasgow in the early 20th century, became the first female Labour councillor in the city and tirelessly campaigned for the working classes.

Friday 9 March 2012

Now Mary Barbour, who lived in Govan in the early 1900s, is to be celebrated in a new artwork which will be created by Glasgow-based artist Sharon Thomas.

Ms Thomas will create the piece based on oral histories she has collected about Mrs Barbour from locals from the Govan area.

Mrs Barbour was instrumental in forming the South Govan Women’s Housing Association and played a key part in the 1915 rent strikes, which saw thousands of women across the city demonstrating about unfair rate increases.

As a result of the rent strikes, Mrs Barbour is also credited with helping to create the Rent Restriction Act, which heralded a change in the housing system of the city.

Ms Thomas held an event yesterday evening, on International Women’s Day, in the Pearce Institute in Govan to find out more about Mrs Barbour’s life. She said: “A lot of histories are passed on orally and so I’m bringing invited locals together to talk about the history of Mary Barbour and with that information I’m going to make an artwork. I’m probably going to make an etching based on her portrait, an edition of 20, one of them will be kept in the Woman’s Library and the rest will be auctioned.”

Mrs Barbour, who had two children, was also Glasgow Corporation’s first woman baillie, a position she held from 1924 until 1927. In 1925 she was appointed chairperson of the Women’s Welfare and Advisory Clinic, Glasgow’s first family planning centre.

Ms Thomas added: “She was a huge figure in the Glasgow area but for some reason in terms of painting and sculpture, in terms of representing Mary Barbour as a huge force in Glasgow, she doesn’t exist, which I just find really bizarre as a painter.

“For young women in Glasgow she could be an amazing figure to look up to, but there’s very little there about her”