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Women and Scottish Railway History: RMT learners and OU tutors create free online learning resource

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) in Scotland, together with The Open University in Scotland and Scottish Union Learning have developed an OpenLearn collection relating to the role of women in Scottish railway history.

The Women and Scottish Railway History Collection celebrates the achievements and struggles of women members working within the rail industry.

Women in Scottish Railway History Collection map (Copyright The Open University)

The role of women in Scottish Trade Unions, and in the wider Scottish Labour Movement since the mid to late 19th Century, has been under-researched in important respects. While important work has been done, much remains to be uncovered, not least in relation to women’s role in the railways in Scotland and, in particular, in relation to their role in the National Union of Railwaymen (and women!) and latterly the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union and as trade union activists involved in struggles of many and varied kinds. We are seeking to uncover important aspects of this hidden past, and hopefully in the process will establish firm foundations for further work in this field in the years to come. (The Women and Scottish Railway History Collection, The Open University in Scotland)

Mick Lynch, General Secretary, National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) is quoted on the OU website, saying:

I’m delighted to see this collection of powerful personal testimonies and stories from RMT members in Scotland.

This partnership with The Open University has not only filled gaps in our existing knowledge of the role of women in railway trade unionism but given a number of women members the skills and confidence to pursue other learning opportunities with the OU. I hope that this will lead to further collaborations of this kind. Well done to all involved in this exciting project.

Screenshot from OpenLearn article by Michelle Boyle, featuring Karen Harrison (Copyright The Open University)



The collection contains interactive online resources developed by learners, including timelines of key events and archive images: for example, "1722 to 2021 - a history of Scotland's railway" was written by Scotrail conductor, Michelle Boyle.

To explore the collection further and find out more about the SUL-funded project organised by RMT Learning Coordinator, Dennis Fallen, visit OpenLearn.





Women and Workplace Struggles collection map (Copyright The Open University)

Also on OpenLearn, you can explore the Women and Workplace Struggles: Scotland 1900-2022 collection, which forms part of a project to uncover a largely hidden past: women’s involvement in workplace struggles across Scotland since the early 1900s.

There are currently 25 articles in this collection, each casting either a new light on – or refreshing memories of – struggles of the past, as well as some that are ongoing. New disputes and workplace struggles are constantly erupting and it is hoped that we will be able to add to the articles that are live in this collection in late 2022. (Women and Workplace Struggles: Scotland 1900-2022, The Open University in Scotland)

Angela Bradley, EIS General Secretary, and Chair of the STUC Women's Committee is quoted on the OU website, saying:

Without women, society as we know it would crumble, yet for far too long, women’s contributions to history have gone unacknowledged.

Women’s workplace rights are not fringe issues, but rather trade union struggles and without these hard-won fights we would not be where we are today as a movement. Sharing our stories and making our voices heard adds to our collective strength.

This project, and growing archive, is an important step to set the record straight and for women to take our rightful place in trade union history.