Mary Barbour’s Army

We believe it is overdue that Mary Barbour be remembered in this way. Not just becausemb001 of the successful working-class campaign she led, but also because she’s a woman and women haven’t been given a proper place in history books or, indeed, in our street accolades. Therefore, it is particularly pertinent that this statue will be unveiled on International Womens Day.

However, women are still not given their rightful place in today’s workplaces. We need look no further than the ongoing equal-pay campaigns.

Mary Barbour – and the army she led in 1915 – recognised the importance of housing costs as a political issue. That’s not too different to today. Private rent has increased in some of areas of the city by 36% in the past 5 years. We haven’t seen wages increase to match the cost of living since austerity began, so clearly 2018 Scotland isn’t too different.

The Living Rent campaign is now working with trade union campaigns, such as Better than Zero, to highlight the link between wages and rent in creating culture of precarious lives. The campaigns have been at the forefront of challenging unscrupulous landlords and exploitative bosses; winning concessions from both over the past two years and, similarly to MB’s campaign, grabbing the attention of Parliament.

In Glasgow, the Council are now looking at introducing rent pressure zones, partly due to the work of the Living Rent tenants union; and the Scottish Government today announced that they will be refocussing efforts to implement a fair work charter following Better than Zero’s work in highlighting employers not paying staff who couldn’t make to work during storm.

All these things are linked. Thankfully, we have examples such as Mary Barbour and the rent strike to show that working class women can lead fearlessly lead campaigns, challenge those in power, change the law, and ultimately transform the balance of power in society.

Sarah Collins
Policy Officer

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