Glasgow clippies – the fierce female conductors on the trams – were legendary.

But did you know Glasgow was  the first city in Britain to recruit female tram drivers during the First World War?

Ordinary women – like the clippies, the shipyard workers, the teachers and the shopkeepers – all form the backdrop to Glasgow Women’s Library’s latest heritage walk.

The event – on August 19 – takes participants on a journey through the city’s leafy West End streets, revealing the stories of amazing women who have lived and worked there over the centuries.

It starts at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, which houses works by the original Glasgow Girls, women working in art and design between 1880 and 1920.  They were a trailblazing circle of artists whose influence and popularity has grown over the years.

Their work, which included paintings, illustrations, textiles, ceramics and metals, is credited with helping to bring the distinctive Glasgow Style to the world’s attention.

They include Jessie Marion King, who was born in Bearsden, north of Glasgow, in 1875 and went on to study and teach at the GSA.

Evening Times:

Jessie M King, one of the celebrated artists, The Glasgow Girls. Left, Marion Gilchrist

A renowned children’s book illustrator and designer of jewellery, fabrics and pottery, her elaborate, decorative style was in part inspired by fantasy lore and legend.

The group also includes engraver and illustrator Annie French, best known for her black and white illustrations in the Art Nouveau style; painter and embroiderer Helen Paxton Brown and painter Bessie MacNicol.

The route of this latest walk passes the site of Anderson College, set up to rival Glasgow University which didn’t allow women students until 1892. 

In the first three years of opening, almost half of the college’s 1000 students were women.

When women were finally allowed to enrol, they made an impact immediately – trailblazing Marion Gilchrist was the first woman to graduate from Glasgow, doing so in 1894 with a high commendation in medicine.

The walk also tells the stories of pipe-smoking Rachel Johnston, from Partick, who broke boundaries by working as a labourer in the shipyards and as a special constable during riots in 1875 and Helen Crawfurd, Secretary of the Glasgow Women’s Housing Association who fought for those at risk from eviction because of rent increases by unscrupulous landlords in the early 1900s.

Whilst researching the walks project, the team at Glasgow Women’s Library discovered a number of businesses run by forward-thinking women, such as laundry owner Mrs McHoul, stationer and tobacconist Miss Robson and dressmaker Miss Simpson, who made just as big an impact on the city as the more well known suffragettes and activists.

The walk passes by the Queen Margaret Union, the former “ladies’ union” of Glasgow University which fought against the traditional sole-sex structure and finally admitted its first male student in 1979.

On Southpark Avenue, you learn about Number 78 (the Mackintosh House), which is recreated in the Hunterian Art Gallery back on Hillhead Street.  It was the home of Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, an artist often overshadowed by  her husband, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Evening Times:

Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh and her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh

And the West End walk ends with one of Glasgow’s most famous memorials to  the suffragettes – The Suffrage Oak on Kelvinway.

It was planted in 1918 to celebrate women’s first opportunity to vote in a general election and stands as a memorial to the likes of Helen Crawfurd, Dorothea Chalmers Smith, Jessie Stephen and Frances McPhun.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the Women’s Heritage Walks, set up originally as part of the West End Festival by GWL’s Women Make History project in 2007.

lThe West End Women’s Heritage Walk takes place on August 19 from 2pm until 4pm and tickets cost from £6 to £10. Tickets must be booked in advance.  lFind out more on Glasgow Women’s Library’s website at