Besides being a lending institution and research facility, the Glasgow Women’s Library contains a vast collection of over 3,000 objects pertaining to feminine achievements and culture. Perhaps the first, if not the only, establishment to do so in the country. Amidst the collection is a rather mundane household object with a rich history, a metal umbrella stand. It is situated just across from the reception desk and looks a little worse for wear. It’s reported to date from 1914 and retrieved from a rubbish heap by a former worker of the Duke Street Prison, which closed around the 1950s.
This correction facility was known for holding female inmates, many of whom were political prisoners, as well as suffragettes. During the struggle to obtain equal rights for women, it was not uncommon for female protestors to be incarcerated. This umbrella stand is reported to belong to the prison’s governess.
The cast iron stand and drip tray are decorated with flowers and painted with the colors associated with the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), a militant wing of the suffrage movement. The stand was painted white to signify purity, purple for dignity, and green for hope. It has been widely considered to have been painted by WSPU members, who were held within the prison walls.
Know Before You Go
Entry into the library is free. It is closed Sunday and Monday; open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, Thursday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., but seasonal hours may vary and can be viewed on their website.
Until further notice, on Friday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 4:30 pm all visitors, staff, and volunteers are asked to wear masks. (Masks will be offered on arrival to visitors without.)