GLASGOW Women’s Library (GWL) is marking “feminist Christmas” with an exhibition looking back at 30 years of events and a significant donation from Nicola Sturgeon.

The UK’s only library dedicated the history of the lives and sometimes forgotten achievements of women, the GWL sees floods of visitors every year to the refurbished building in Bridgeton on International Women’s Day (IWD).

As well as a series of events and workshops, the exhibition Three Decades of Changing Minds looks back over past celebrations and initiatives run by the library, encouraging women across Scotland to get involved.

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It comes after Sturgeon donated her first official Commission to be Scotland’s FM from 2014, the first time a woman had ever held the role. The formal copy of the document was officially sealed in August 2016 by the National Records of Scotland.

It hung on the walls of Bute House until Sturgeon donated it to GWL ahead of IWD 2023, and will be put on display in the coming weeks.

The exhibition, housed on the first floor of the library, has various art pieces from across the years, from short films to postcard love letters written to women. There are newsletters detailing past events, and details on heritage walks dedicated to uncovering women’s hidden histories across Scotland, from Wigtown to Aberdeen.

The National: The exhibition celebrates 30 years of International Women's Day at GWLThe exhibition celebrates 30 years of International Women's Day at GWL (Image: NQ staff)

Rachel Gray, project co-ordinator for the exhibition, told The National that the library wants to keep women’s history alive and celebrate their achievements.

She said: “That's why this exhibition feels special because this is another version of us really striving to make international women's day something special.

“It's basically feminist Christmas on National Women's Day.

“It's our busiest day of the year. We have lots of visitors coming in, lots of people phoning in and asking what's happening on International Women's Day, so it's a day that we know to plan for.”

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In Her Shoes, one of the three short films on display, was created in 2017 and looked at what women wanted from a First Minister. Inspired by the work of Zoe Leonard, an American artist, who wrote about what she wanted from a US President, the GWL took the idea and mixed it with a few others.

Gray explained: “It's a really beautiful piece. It's basically asking for a first minister that has had the lived experiences that could support them to write really empathic policy for people.

“They were saying I want a first minister who has experienced homelessness. I want a first minister who has experienced mental health? I want a first minister who is a feminist and a lesbian for deputy.”

The National: The exhibition is also showing three short films on a loopThe exhibition is also showing three short films on a loop (Image: NQ Staff)

The FM was shown the film whilst getting a sneak peak of the exhibit on Tuesday evening following her donation, which Gray said felt “poignant”.

Gray said: “She [Sturgeon] had tears in her eyes, and it felt really emotional, because we made this with women in 2017 and lots of the qualities that came through from this, from what they wrote, were things that actually Nicola Sturgeon has had.

“Like being empathic, being a kind person. being someone that really cares about what happens to people.

“So I think it felt poignant.”

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Parties and celebrations also play a part in how the GWL marks IWD, from artist takeovers and irregular salon nights. Gray explained: “They have been a long-standing part of GWL history and mainly for fundraising, but also in the sense of just bringing joy in people's lives and an opportunity to get together to eat and to dance and to enjoy music and theatre.”

The exhibition also celebrates the 16 heritage walks across Scotland the GWL helped establish, with three being launched on IWD over the years.

From the Merchant City and Necropolis in Glasgow to Wigtown and Aberdeen, the walks were created by women who volunteered to research the history of their local areas to find the “hidden characters” forgotten in cities and towns across Scotland.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon's commission to become FM will become part of the permanent display at the libraryNicola Sturgeon's commission to become FM will become part of the permanent display at the library (Image: NQ staff)

“It’s digging it all out and dusting it off and making sure that it's front and centre and that we can see ourselves in our cities and in different areas. It’s important," Gray said. 

The Three Decades of Changing Minds, 30 years of IWD at GWL, backed by the National Lotter Heritage Fund, runs until Saturday April 15.

The GWL also has a large collection of exhibits, books, documents and archive pieces, gifted to them on display throughout the library, available to view until Saturday April 29.