Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) is the only accredited museum in the UK dedicated solely to women. Based out of Glasgow’s east end, the cultural institution was nominated for ArtFund’s Museum of the Year last year, losing out to Tate St Ives at a close shave. As well as a lending library, GWL houses an impressive archive of artefacts from women’s history. From Suffragette memorabilia to records detailing a history of female immigrant experiences in the UK, the library come archive come museum is one of Scotland’s most-prized cultural landmarks.
All its books have been donated over 25 years and in this time, GWL has grown from a small grassroots organisation operating out of boxes, to an award-winning organisation supporting women’s rights across the board. Open to all, the library also boasts an ongoing series of public events from reading groups, talks and exhibitions, as well as acting as a hub for learning.
For this year’s International Women’s Day, we are treated to the team’s favourite books from the library’s shelves. Various members of the Glasgow Women’s Library team have chosen literary gems from their wide-ranging lending library. From a book chronicling the first all-women’s Himalayan expedition in 1955, to a feminist horror story written more than a century ago, this eclectic range of books will be sure to introduce It’s Nice That readers to some brilliant women writers.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Yellow Wallpaper,
Chosen by Donna Moore, adult literacy and numeracy development worker
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper was published in 1892. It’s a feminist horror story in which the unnamed narrator and her doctor husband are spending the summer in a country mansion. He has diagnosed his wife with “hysteria” after the birth of their child. prescribing her total rest and isolation. He bans her from reading and writing — her pleasures — and as a result, she becomes obsessed with the wallpaper in her convalescent bedroom, convinced that there is a woman inside it, struggling to break out. It’s a deliciously creepy, brilliantly written tale of the physical and mental constraints put on women by Victorian society. Specifically, the position of women in marriage. It’s a story that works on multiple different levels and, despite the fact that it was written over a century ago, it’s still very relevant today.
Monica Jackson and Elizabeth Stark: Tents in the Clouds: The First Women’s Himalayan Expedition
Chosen by Gabrielle Macbeth, volunteer coordinator
I am fascinated by mountains and love to read books about those who climb them, pushing themselves far beyond anywhere I can imagine myself going. Thanks to Glasgow Women’s Library, I’ve been introduced to several books by and about women explorers, climbers and adventurers who I’d never heard of before such as Dervla Murphy, Gwen Moffat and Nan Shepherd. Tents in the Clouds is the account of the first all-female expedition to the Himalayas in 1955, just two years after the historic first ascent of Mount Everest. It’s an understated, honest, engaging and completely inspiring story of the three Scottish women’s journey; which says so much about women’s strength, determination, sensitivity and sense of adventure.
Toni Morrison: Paradise
Chosen by Caroline Gausden, development worker for programming and curating
This book is so compelling I read it twice. Paradise opens with a horrifying scene of mass violence. The book chronicles the genesis of the opening scene in an all-black small town in rural Oklahoma, founded by the descendants of freed slaves and survivors in exodus from a hostile world. In this patriarchal community called Ruby, the town’s values are built on righteousness, rigidly enforced moral law, and fear. In essence, this book opened my eyes to a new consciousness in writing and since reading it I’ve been a devoted follower of everything else Toni Morrison has to say!
Malorie Blackman: Noughts & Crosses
Chosen by Hannah Wright, digital and marketing officer
Noughts & Crosses, a book I first read as a teenager, made a powerful impression on me. In this groundbreaking novel, the population is divided into two: the white Noughts are second-class citizens, and the black Crosses are highly-revered and perceived as the superior race. 15-year-old Callum is a Nought, and his best friend, Sephy, as well as being a Cross, is also the daughter of one of the most influential politicians in the country. The story focuses on their relationship, which is frowned upon by society, and explores the discrimination they encounter at every turn. This book made me look again at the world I lived in and expanded my awareness of the structural inequality that existed when I was a teenager; inequality that still very much exists today. It is a powerful, thought-provoking book that deserves to be a modern classic.
Holly Pester: Go to Reception and Ask for Sara in Red Felt Tip
Chosen by Mattie Roberts, lifelong learning admin assistant
This book embodies my experiences of Glasgow Women’s Library. It informs the way I approach its collections, assign value and understand knowledge within it. One of the first events I attended at GWL was a book launch for Sophie Collins’ Small White Monkeys, it was also the first time I came across Holly Pester. The words and performances contributing to the event have since played around my mind. Soon after, I found Go to Reception and Ask for Sara in Red Felt Tip in the GWL collection. It is a collection of poetry as well as an insight into a method; a method for approaching archives, research, stories and gossip. Created in the archives of the Women’s Art Library in London, the book sees anecdotes and fragments of the archive collaged into poetry in Pester’s typically tender and funny manner. Holly Pester’s writing around her time in archives has had a massive influence on my experience of Glasgow Women’s Library, and more generally of women’s spaces, relations and words.
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