Badges of Honour: Glasgow Women’s Library

Badges can tell your life story. My friend Pat and I both collect them, so when we heard about Glasgow Women’s Library’s new Badges of Honour project, we decided to go along to the launch. The project aims to show how badge-wearing women changed the world – well, I’m not sure either of us would claim to have done that, but we took along some of our favourite badges anyway, and were filmed talking about them for the archive. It was really interesting to take part and I’m looking forward to follow-up visits to other badge collections.

Here are the badges I spoke about, and an explanation of why they are important to me.

I was brought up a Methodist in the 1960s. In those days, Methodists were tee-total and alcohol was not allowed on church premises. I sat the Band of Hope (a temperance organisation) exams twice and won prizes both times. In 1967, aged 10, I came first nationally and was awarded a medal, top left. I got 100% – although this wasn’t difficult. I remember going to classes on a Saturday morning and being impatient because all there was to study was a four page booklet which I probably learned off by heart. We had to remember the names of different spirits – I remember being told that thinking of a frisky kitten would help me remember whisky, which I thought was very patronising. It also didn’t work as I certainly like a drink or two!

I was also a member of the Junior Missionary Association, and every Sunday after the church service I went round the congregation collecting money. My JMA medal is the top middle picture – I got this for my first year of collecting and each year after that I added a bar. The first bar is dated 1964 so I must have got the medal in 1963 when I was 6. The last bar is dated 1972, then there is a cross – I’m not sure why, maybe I had reached the age limit or the maximum number of bars. This is also representative of a way of life I no longer follow, but although I’m not a church-goer, it instilled charitable values in me which I still try to live by.

The rest of the badges shown are from the early 80s. I came out of university straight into Thatcherite cuts, and the badges reflect this – it was my most politically active decade. They are strongly pro-Labour and anti-Tory (top right). Campaigns included support for the striking miners and opposition to the dismembering of metropolitan authorities (“Save South Yorkshire”). The Cold War was at its height and I used to have a recurring dream that a bomb went off and I was trying to walk from Doncaster, where we lived, to Sheffield where my husband worked. I still remember the feeling of sadness that I would probably never see him again. We were both in CND (bottom left) and marched in Glasgow, Barrow (where Trident was built) and London, where a “witty” banner strung across Whitehall read: “1983 election: losers’ entrance”. I also visited Greenham Common to “embrace the base”.

The final group (bottom right) is library campaign badges. Then, as now, libraries were under threat. Today’s campaigns are sophisticated, internet driven affairs. We had a conference and some amateurish badges. I can’t remember much coming of it, though Doncaster Libraries survived – to be one of the most notorious cases of library closures these days, unfortunately.

This is a really interesting campaign, and I wish GWL all the best with it.

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Anabel Marsh

I'm a proud Glaswegian who loves to go gallivanting both at home and abroad. Join me in my travels, both historic and current. Credit where credit's due: photography mostly by my more talented other half, John.

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