A PROGRAMME of films exploring the lives of women in Scotland throughout the 20th century tours the country in the coming weeks.

Selections from Her Story are screened today at Cromarty Film Festival, with the collection going on to visit venues across Scotland in the run-up to International Women’s Day in March.

Screened together for the first time, the films feature schoolgirls, housewives, workers and even the granddaughters of Mary Barbour, chief organiser of women involved in the 1915 Glasgow rent strikes.

Renfrewshire-born Miss Winnie Drinkwater, the first woman in the world to hold a commercial pilot’s licence, features in 1933 silent film To Ireland By Air, while the first woman tram driver in Glasgow – alone in not firing female workers after war – is briefly shown in Nine Dalmuir West, Kevin Brownlow’s record of the last day the vehicles served the city.

Aged 73 when the 1962 film was shot, the woman, first recruited in 1916, is without a name, raising the question whether Brownlow asked her for it.

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The most recent is 1984’s Red Skirts On Clydeside, a film by two women from Sheffield Film Co-op on the hunt for information about the Glasgow rent strikes.

One act of local women back then, says a descendant, was to dispatch the sheriff officer “into a midden”.

Jenny Woodley and Christine Bellamy’s film has the air of a detective story and shows the pair searching the Mitchell Library in vain for evidence.

When archives in London are also found wanting, the pair return to Glasgow to seek living relatives of those who were there.

“Red Skirts On Clydeside is an incredible film for so many reasons,” says Her Century curator Dr Emily Munro, learning and outreach officer for the National Library of Scotland. “It’s interesting it wasn’t made by women in Scotland, despite there being film co-ops at the time around the UK.

“It’s almost as if we’ve been ambivalent about our own social and political history, where women are concerned.”

Though Her Story was put together as preparations were ramping up for the 100-year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, there is no footage of Agnes Husband, Margaret Irwin or Elsie Inglis – Munro found she had none to choose from.

The National:

“The National Archive at the British Film Institute has some footage of women who were suffragettes, but not the Scottish archive,” she says.

“So I had to look at things in a different way. It was a case of ‘if we don’t have that, what have we actually got?’

“Also happening were the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements which shone a very uncomfortable light on how women have been excluded from the media industry.”

Particularly determined, says Munro, was Sarah Erulkar, a Indian-born Jewish filmmaker who died in London in 2015 at the age of 92.

Of Erulkar’s prolific output is Never Go With Strangers, a chilling 1971 public information film which led the then Scottish Health Education Unit to ask her to make a series of films for, and featuring, teenagers in Scotland.

In 1980’s Male and Female, pupils give their views on the different aspirations and roles they expected boys and girls to fulfil as they grew into the adult world. Watched 40 years later, some of the views given may seem more in tune with the values of a 1939’s fundraising appeal for girls clubs.

As groups are seen preparing meals, making clothes and wrapping bandages around each other, the narrator of the uncredited film says how “it is natural that girls should want to do these things”.

“Some people are shocked when they see it now, and say it’s awful how the girl’s clubs were putting girls into these roles,” says Munro.

“Whereas others can see the value in working class girls having a space to come together and have some camaraderie.”

Like Male and Female, intended as a starting point for real conversations in Scotland’s classrooms, Munro hopes Her Century will continue to inspire discussion as it tours the country with invited speakers, Q&A sessions and copies of a fanzine written by young writers in response to the films.

The archivist is also fully aware of the gaps in a programme limited to what was available to her.

The only women of colour to feature in Her Century appear in amateur footage taken in 1965 showing members of Glasgow Soroptimists dancing, laughing and taking tea together. “We don’t know the black and south Asian women in the film were living in Scotland or were international visitors of the Soroptimists,” says Munro.

“Though that’s a real shame, we’re not pretending this is a representative view. We know women, people of colour and LGBTQ+ people have been written out of history. We know we’re lacking. We’re being very upfront about that.”

Munro says audiences have a part to play in considering their own lives and that of their friends and relatives. And it’s worth a look in the loft. “You maybe didn’t think that your family film was of interested to the national archives,” she says. “But it really could be quite important in terms of how Scotland’s people are remembered in the future.”

Today, Screen Machine, Cromarty Harbour, 1pm, £5.50. Tel: 01463 234 234. www.tickets.eden-court.co.uk

www.cromartyfilmfestival.org; January 21, Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre, Dumfries, 7.30pm, £5+bf. www.rbcft.co.uk; February 20, Glasgow Women’s Library, 5.30pm, price TBC. www.womenslibrary.org.uk; March 5, The Byre Theatre, St Andrews, 10am, price TBC. www.byretheatre.com. Keep up to date with future screenings at www.filmhubscotland.com.

Watch the Her Century trailer