You may remember that last year at KDD, we celebrated International Women’s Day by designing and knitting a commemorative blanket together with our good friend, Felicity Ford. Celebrating 30 diverse creative women, our blanket was created with the central aim of using our crafty skills to educate each other about the many different ways in which women had inspired us, with figures ranging from Britain’s first black headteacher, Beryl Gilroy, to Edinburgh knitting pioneer, Jane Gaugain. The blanket later won a best practice award from International Women’s Day and one of our hopes for the project, moving forward, was that it might inspire other groups and organisations to develop their own similar acts of collective celebration in their own blankets. . . .
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I was incredibly moved and excited to hear that the Glasgow School of Law’s craft collective had got together to do just that! Staff, students, and friends of the School of Law (including a wonderful group of knitters in Motherwell) had been inspired by our blanket, and got together to knit up their own squares, celebrating the first 100 women to graduate in law from Glasgow for this year’s International Women’s Day.
The fabulous yarn to knit the blanket was provided by Prof. Lynn Abrams and her colleagues at the University of Glasgow’s Fleece to Fashion project. Spun from the fleeces of sheep raised on the University’s own farm, Cochno wool has been spun to DK weight by the Natural Fibre Company, and is available in four shades that match the University colours. What a great example of cross-disciplinary engagement and enterprise! How many universities manufacture their own yarn?
Each square in the blanket is named for one of the first 100 women to graduate in law, beginning with Madge Easton Anderson, Scotland’s first female solicitor (and Glasgow law graduate) who was only able to practice after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act (1919) finally permitted women to enter the legal profession.
The first 100 women (and 100 squares) are just the beginning of this project, which will grow in several directions (both figuratively and literally) as the knitters take forward their celebrations of the past and future of Scotland’s women in law.
I (and the KDD blanket) were honoured to be invited by Maria Fletcher and Charlie Peevers to an International Women’s Day event today at the University at which their blanket was revealed, alongside other inspiring initiatives that make up the School of Law’s 100 voices for 100 years project, celebrating the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act.
What a privilege to meet, and to listen to, the incredibly elegant and enormously erudite Lady Hazel Cosgrove, Scotland’s first female high court judge!
This very appealing crocheted jacket belongs to Prof. Esin Orucu, one of Glasgow’s “first five” female law professors, whose Turkish name means ‘inspiration’ – how very fitting!
A morning full of interesting conversations, then, and certainly an education for me, as I learned an enormous amount about the very specific obstacles and challenges for women practising and teaching law in Scotland over the past century.
I think what I found most inspiring about the event were the many very different kinds of fun, engaging, creative activities that the School of Law had been able to incorporate into their exploration of a very serious topic: viz – the too-frequently-invisible but deeply important legacy of Scottish women in law. For, as well as their hand-knitted blanket, the school has developed a wide-ranging digital exhibition (including podcasts and text interviews); appointed a young poet in residence (also a graduate from the school of law), and today unveiled a beautiful artwork, a gift from Dana Denis-Smith’s First 100 Years project.
In this piece, a portrait of Madge Easton Anderson becomes a composite of the diverse faces of hundreds of women working in the UK legal professions today. A very beautiful and meaningful way of celebrating the collectivity and solidarity of all contemporary “sisters in law” whilst simultanously acknowledging and honouring women’s important “firsts.”
Thanks for the invite, Charlie and Maria. It was an honour to be there.
The title of this post is, of course the motto and coat of arms of UK high court judge (and notable ‘enemy of the people’) Lady Hale: women are equal to anything.