A Closer Look

Despite the extended character limit now available, Twitter remains a place where nuance remains scarce, with the immediate and readily digestible at a premium. A couple of weeks ago we tweeted this from the GCU Library and Archives account. No doubt it is a striking image; arguably it distills the modern perception of the suffrage movement to its absolute fundamentals – a woman is being literally held by the personification of the law, while contemporary men look on in anger and bemusement. Purely on these terms, the photo is successful.

Front cover of ‘The Life of Emmeline Pankhurst’

There is more to it, as an addendum on the book’s back cover notes. It is, I think, worth quoting in full:

‘The illustration on the front of this jacket represents Emmeline Pankhurst, weakened by the hunger and thirst strike, arrested at the gates of Buckingham Palace when the Suffragettes attempted to interview the King on May 21st 1914. The huge policeman gave her a bear’s hug which caused excruciating pain. In her prison cell she suffered for many days.’

These words, written by her daughter Sylvia, give pause. With the benefit of hindsight, it is perhaps easy to fall prey to seeing the success of causes such as women’s suffrage as inevitable  – well, of course women were going to get the vote eventually. But think on those words and picture they describe. Someone starving and dehydrated, fifty six years old and aching. The policeman, not gentle, perhaps wanting to make an example. And the men doing nothing but looking on. Continue reading

Trials and tribulations of new ventures

A Wellcome Trust Research Resources Project

The School of Health and Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University offers a number of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in nursing.  What is perhaps less well known is that its predecessor institution, the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science (GWSCDS), had ventured into nursing-related courses as early as 1925.

image of a page from the prosectus with details of the course for sister tutors and dieticians

GWSCDS 1926/27 Prospectus

The Diploma and certificate course for sister tutors and dietitians was developed in response to a shortage of nurses and dietitians in the workforce. It was open to trained nurses who would gain the qualification to enable them to teach nurses in training schools.  It was also open to Group I diploma students (diploma in cookery, laundrywork and housewifery) who could qualify as hospital, hotel or institutional dietitians.  Classes started in September Continue reading

Hi-Tech

Until the late 1980s, the current location of Glasgow Caledonian University was known as Glasgow College of Technology.[1] Upon sorting and listing recently, I came across several issues of Techbeat – the magazine for and by the students of GCT.

Cover of ‘Techbeat’ January/February 1987

The student union magazine is a venerable staple of many higher education institutions. They were (and are) a chance for the student body to put its point of view across, to cover the issues that they find relevant, and hold power to account. To read one is to be exposed to a specific mind-set of youthful idealism mixed with scabrous humour.

The four issues of Techbeat span from Autumn 1986 to January/February 1987. They offer quite the insight into student life of the time. Some things it seems remain perennial – witness the sport page’s focus on all matters football (what we would give now for the luxury of bemoaning a poor performance by Scotland in the World Cup!). There are reviews of contemporary films (Tom Cruise in Ridley Scott’s Legend anyone?) and live music. A gig at the Edinburgh Playhouse by Christy Moore was described thus: Continue reading

The EAW and educating women on the power of freedom

image of a blue magazine with title "The Electrical Age" in a spiky futuristic-looking font

EAW Magazine, Summer 1937

A Wellcome Trust Research Resources Project

Sorting through the records of the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science my eye was caught by the striking blue cover of a magazine, The Electrical Age.  It had the feel of an early Flash Gordon film title about it. On closer inspection I discovered that it was a 1937 publication about electricity which was aimed at women. Immediately I wanted to find out more.

The Electrical Association for Women (EAW) was founded in London in 1924 with the aim of helping women Continue reading

It’s all in the chemistry: Mary Andross and food research

black and white photograph of woman pouring milk into a pan with a laboratory display around her.

Mary Andross  demonstrating her research at the College’s Nutrition Centre, The Empire Exhibition 1938

A Wellcome Trust Research Resources Project

Mary Andross (1893-1968) joined the staff of the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science (GWSCDS – later named The Queen’s College, Glasgow) in September 1924 as lecturer in Chemistry but her influence extended far beyond its walls. She is remembered more widely for her pioneering development of training for dieticians and the research she carried out on the nutritional content of foods.

After graduating with a BSc from the University of Glasgow, she worked with Professor George G Henderson, eventually becoming a Chemistry Assistant Continue reading

The Minority Male

A Wellcome Trust Research Resources Project

Usually when we hear about education in the early 20th century it is of a sphere dominated by men. Male professors, teachers and students thrived in a world where women were generally regarded as the lesser sex.  But at the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science the opposite was true. It was an institution led by a succession of women Principals who championed the role of women in education. Thousands of women entered its doors to be trained in Cookery, Housewifery, Laundrywork, Dressmaking, as teachers of Domestic Science, Dieticians and Institutional Managers. Upon glancing at the student registers and class photographs – seeing them full of names and faces of women – one may think men were barred from entry.  However, this was not the case.

The first male students appeared in April 1915. This was during World War I and soldiers had to cook for large numbers of servicemen Continue reading

The Tale of Gordon McCulloch

It’s an odd feeling this, sorting through someone’s papers when you didn’t know them. I never met Gordon McCulloch. And now that he is gone he’ll always remain somewhat opaque. Yet as I read his correspondence, see the handwritten addendums to letters, the typed and re-typed drafts of university essays, slowly, almost by osmosis; a narrative starts to form.

Here’s a story for you. Three men appear side by side in two photographs. Continue reading

Tackling food poverty: from peacetime to wartime and back again

A Wellcome Trust Research Resources Project

Over the festive season people are busy shopping, partying and feasting on rich food. For many, it is a time of extravagance and over-indulgence but it is also a time to remember that there are people who are less fortunate and need help to avoid poverty and hunger.

At the end of the 19th century, it was families struggling on low incomes that the Glasgow School of Cookery (GSC) and West End School of Cookery aimed to help, not just within their own walls, but by taking their knowledge and expertise out into the community. Teaching staff travelled widely around Glasgow and the towns and villages further afield, Continue reading

Cooking up a College Catalogue

A Wellcome Trust Research Resources Project

photograph of document boxes and volumes on shelvesOn first walking into the archive store and seeing the rows of shelves lined with fascinating objects, books, folders and boxes of different shapes and sizes, it is hard not to compare them with larder shelves, especially  knowing that the archive collections are from cookery schools and a college of domestic science.  Each shelf holds an assortment of coloured packages which when opened reveal the ingredients that provide the different flavours of life that went on within those institutions.  These are the archives of three of Glasgow Caledonian University’s predecessor institutions and The Wellcome Trust has funded a 12 month project, “Poverty, Health, Diet and Education in Glasgow: from Domestic Science to the Allied Health Professions, 1875-1993”, to sort, catalogue, preserve and share the collections.

On the menu we have two starters, the Glasgow School of Cookery (1875) and the West End School of Cookery (1878), rival cookery schools Continue reading

Organised Memories 1

The theory of Eternalism was first posited by the metaphysician J.M.E.McTaggart. As I would assume with metaphysics in general, it’s rather a dense notion to get one’s head around[1]. It suggests that the past, present and future are all equally ‘real’ – that events are not only happening now, but both have been and will be simultaneously as well.

At least I think that’s the crux of it.

I bring this up because it chimes with my experience of working in Archives and Special Collections. Since starting I’ve  Continue reading