Developed by the STUC Women’s Committee, the Herstory Project has been created to gather and highlight the stories of trade union women in Scotland.

The project aims to empower trade union women to share their stories on the contribution they have made to the Scottish trade union movement and to ensure their daily roles in our unions, workplaces, communities, and society has a place to be captured and valued for our present, and our future. Here, we look at a selection of stories inspired by the Herstory project.

The following is an extract of Margaret Brown’s Herstory. Margaret’s story reflects on her working life; this extract tells of her time as an Administrative Assistant in the EIS Glasgow Area Office, as she looks forward to retiring in the spring of 2024.

Probably the most memorable event I attended as an EIS staff member was in October 2018, when EIS staff and 20,000 members took to the streets of Glasgow to march from Kelvingrove Park to George Square as part of the Value Education Value Teachers campaign. Members had travelled from all over the country and the turnout was much bigger than ever expected. By the time the first of the marchers reached George Square, the end of the march was just leaving Kelvingrove, some 2.5 miles away.

It was a Saturday and the traffic in Glasgow City Centre came to a halt. It’s hard to describe the feeling of exhilaration felt by all involved on the day.

During my working life, I have seen lots of representatives come and go and what was evident from the beginning was, that apart from a small number of trade union positions being taken up by women, most full-time and lay positions were filled by men. It’s refreshing to see today that there are significantly more women holding senior positions in trade unions and I am happy to have worked for the EIS long enough to see Andrea Bradley become our first woman General Secretary.

Throughout my working life I have worked with a lot of strong women in the trade union movement, and I would like to finish off by paying tribute to the women who are the unsung heroes. Trade union members usually know about the high-profile names in our unions but not many are aware of the other staff who keep everything ticking over behind the scenes.

These women carry out the work of running the offices, arranging the meetings and events, typing up the minutes of the meetings, answering the phone calls and taking time to listen to members, who are sometimes upset and in a vulnerable state, and just need someone to talk to at the other end of the phone.

When the committee meetings are finished, all the talking is done and the decisions made, these women get on with the job ensuring that everything turns out all right at events, on the strike days, and at demonstrations.

Finally, when people say, “I don’t need to be in a Union”, or “Unions don’t do anything for me”, I would say to them to remember, that the employment benefits we enjoy today were hard fought for by our predecessors, and today, more than ever, we need to be part of the trade union movement which continues to fight for the rights of all working people. The members are the union.

Induction Day

No longer delivered from behind a screen,
In a bright, spacious town hall down by the sea. A new cohort of probationers,
Fresh and ready to enter the profession.
My EIS merchandise stall beginning to attract their attention.
The room is filling up, nervous excitement fills the air.
I can’t wait to mingle and introduce myself,
To welcome them to this local authority and our trade union,
To recruit and organise and nurture and grow our membership.

So that the solitary becomes the collective, the me becomes us.

– Jacqui MacKenzie, North Ayrshire Local Association

It’s Swimming In There…

A woman stands in a classroom, doing her best, To deliver a lesson, in which kids will invest,
Trips to the maths cupboard, recycled containers from home, Tubs with water, bubbles and foam,
The learning goes well, the pupils engaged,

After it’s done, bad weather means the classroom is a cage, She had wet and dry tables, mops out and mats down,
But the floor was still soaking, the woman stood there with a frown,
Despite best intentions, of course there were spills,
They were busy learning about volume, capacity and mls, The P7 monitors are in, the snacks are already out,
“The floor is still wet, be careful!” she shouts,

Off she goes for her break, only 9 minutes left,
She sips a burning cup of coffee, thinking only of the mess, Break’s by in an instant, so back along the corridor she goes, But before she turns the corner, already she knows,
She heard the irritated echo, “It’s swimming in there …”, Round the corner she turns and is met with a hard stare, Red turn her cheeks, apologies she fumbles,
“It’s totally swimming in there…” again her line manager grumbles.

By A Messy Teacher (Who thought about becoming a lifeguard instead).

If you are interested in becoming a Herstorian, please send your trade union story to Pauline McColgan at

These pieces are being submitted to the STUC Herstory project collection for consideration