Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Red Skirts on Clydeside (1984)

Courtesy of Sheffield Film Co-Op

Main image of Red Skirts on Clydeside (1984)
16mm, 40 min, colour
DirectorJenny Woodley
 Christine Bellamy
Production CompanySheffield Film Co-Op
PhotographyCaroline Spry
EditorJenny Woodley

Cast: Christine Cox (narrator); Gail McIntyre (voice); Clive Russell (voice); John Huw Parry (voice); Jessie Findlay, Kathy Mailer, Margaret Young, Sadie Fulton, Elspeth King, Mary Barbour, Jessie Barbour (interviewees)

Show full cast and credits

Documentary looking at the process of rediscovering women's history, using the 1915 Glasgow rent strike as a focal point.

Show full synopsis

Red Skirts on Clydeside charts the careers of Jean Ferguson, Mary Barbour and Helen Crawford Agnes Dollan through their involvement with the Glasgow rent strike, organised through the Women's Housing Association during the First World War. With a visit to the Women's Library revealing the lack of documentation on women's political activism, interviews with descendants of the campaigners provided a wealth of information and personal stories.

A tracking shot through a classroom, where the 'official' history of the First World War is being taught, maps out the background to the project. An account of the historical groundwork involved in reconstructing the Glasgow rent strike and the biographies of its organisers is a part of the film's attempt to reveal how history is constructed and by whom.

The film's interviews with descendants of the strikers establish the link between the Glasgow rent strike and the women's movement of the 1910s. The astonishing extent of this mobilisation of women offers dramatic evidence of the political nature and potential of a supposedly unpolitical hearth, although the intimacy of the film's scope, and its focus on particular and personal accounts, prevents it from describing interactions between the women's movement, class struggle and the politics of European nation states. The interviewees do, however, describe their own lives and education as an informed and highly conscious political upbringing.

Outraged at finding women's activism under 'miscellaneous' at the Marx Memorial Library, the filmmakers are led to reassert that militant spirit for the labour and women's movement of today.

Emma Hedditch

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Jessie Findlay (2:02)
2. Fruitless research (1:46)
3. Women in the background (2:14)
4. 'The women had to do something' (2:22)
5. The path to victory (3:02)
Not a Penny on the Rents (1968)
Song of the Shirt, The (1979)
Women's Film and Video Collectives