ON THE roof of Glasgow’s St Andrew’s Halls – where the Mitchell Library’s Granville Street entrance is now – a young woman sits, shivering on a rainy August night in 1909.

American suffragist Alice Paul had planned to break through the roof the next day to disrupt a political speech by the Earl of Crewe, in front of an all-male audience.

Mitchell librarian Claire Thompson explains: “She had climbed up on a workman’s hut – it is amazing she didn’t slip and fall. The builders who were working on the Mitchell Library at the time spotted her, assuming she was someone who had got drunk and climbed up to sleep it off.

“When she explained to them who she was and what she was doing, they supported her and let her be – but when the supervisor arrived, he tipped off the police.”

The exploits of Alice and many women and men who supported the suffrage movement here in Glasgow are celebrated in a new display at the Mitchell.

It is 100 years since the first women were allowed to vote.

The collection – a tiny snapshot of the vast archives held at the library - aims to celebrate the milestone by bringing together fascinating newspaper articles, photographs and books which show Glasgow was a leading site for women’s suffrage.

“We’re hoping to open people’s eyes to the role the city’s women and men played in electoral reform,” explains Claire who, along with two fellow librarians has been working on the display for the last six months.

The Glasgow Association for Women’s Suffrage was mentioned in Post Office Directories as early as 1884. Its first chairperson was James Orr, a solicitor who was also president of the Glasgow Liberal Club. They met on a regular basis until the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women’s Suffrage (GWSAWS) was formed in 1902.

Members included Jessie Turnbull Thomson, or Mrs Greig, as she was referred to in the minutes, who was also a member of the Glasgow Council for Women’s Trades, which campaigned for better working conditions for women and children.

The display includes many interesting newspaper articles from the time, including a piece on the deputation from GWSAWS meeting with Prime Minster David Lloyd George at the North British Station Hotel, now the Millennium Hotel, on George Square in November 1907.

“The article quotes Nellie Galbraith, or Mrs James T Hunter, directly – so we are getting to hear her voice,” says Claire.

The suffrage movement was divided - suffragists believed in peaceful campaigning, whereas the suffragettes believed in direct action, including violence and militancy.

As the propaganda war escalated, suffragettes poured acid into pillar boxes, chained themselves to railings and set fire to buildings.

Various acts of disruption took place around Glasgow, and many Scottish suffragettes travelled to London to take part in demonstrations and window smashing raids.

Following arrest and imprisonment, many went on hunger strike in support for their demand for political status. Their subsequent force feeding provoked public outcry.

On March 9, 1914, one of the strongest voices in the UK suffrage movement, Emmeline Pankhurst, came to St Andrew’s Hall in Glasgow to address a large meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union, the more militant suffragette organisation she helped to found in 1903.

Claire explains: “She knew she was subject to re-arrest under the Cat and Mouse Act, which was legislation brought in to allow suffragettes who had been hunger-striking to leave prison only for as long as it took to build themselves back up to strength again. They would then have to return to see out the rest of their sentence.

“During those times, women were not allowed to campaign, so Emmeline was taking a huge risk.

“She was smuggled into the hall inside a laundry basket and appeared on stage before the police rushed in.

“Rioting followed, the police drew batons and several suffragette supporters, including Mrs Pankhurst, were hurt and arrested – many people were appalled by the behaviour of the police but eventually, nothing came of calls for an inquiry.”

Emmeline’s daughters Adela and Sylvia both came to Glasgow – the former, less well known than her older sisters and mother, was nevertheless a key figure in bringing the issue of Votes for Women to public attention in Scotland; and the latter spoke at Glasgow Green, in 1916, alongside leading Scottish figures Agnes Dollan and Helen Crawfurd.

“I love the energy of her in full flow in the newspaper photographs,” smiles Claire. “We also have really interesting snapshots of the movement from the minute books of the GWSAWS, periodicals and the census entry from 1911.”

Radical members of the WPU refused to register in the census, resulting in ‘suffragette’ being written beside their name. Two sisters, Margaret and Ellison Gibb, refused to give information, leaving it blank instead.

Margaret became famous in 1914 for entering the National Portrait Gallery and slashing the portrait of founder Thomas Carlyle. She was sentenced to six months in prison.

The display will be on show in the Mitchell Library until January, and a special commemoration event is planned for December 4, with more details to be released soon.

In the meantime, Claire hopes more people will take an interest in Glasgow’s suffrage champions.

“It’s been a real passion project for me, and I hope other people will find it as interesting,” she explains.

“Our archives are full of items specifically about things that happened here in the city and it has been fascinating piecing together all the wee, hidden stories about the suffrage movement on our doorsteps.”