The Women Who Changed Modern Scotland


Kirsty Wark presents a new series The Women Who Changed Modern Scotland.

Over the course of three programmes, the series will tell the stories of key women who have had a role in shaping Scotland over the last 50 years. It will highlight the women who challenged the status quo in the 1960s and 70s, those who defied sexism to seize new opportunities in the 80s and 90s, and the women who, in more recent years, have stepped up to lead – in politics, in their communities and in the workplace.

The series will feature some well-known names, from actor Elaine C Smith, who talks about the ground-breaking play The Steamie to Nicola Sturgeon – who recently announced she is stepping down from the role of First Minister – who talks to Kirsty about the “hostile” environment for female politicians on social media.

But at the heart of the series are the experiences and stories of an extraordinary range of women who may not be famous but whose passion and commitment have changed the lives of everyone in Scotland.

The series will be showcased on the BBC Scotland channel and BBC iPlayer on Tuesday February 21 at 10pm.

Says Kirsty Wark: “This series will celebrate the monumental achievements of women, many of them unsung, who some quietly, and others shouting from the rafters, did so much to transform the lives of women and men in Scotland and beyond in the last five decades. They campaigned, they cajoled, they sang, they bravely made a path and encouraged others to follow. Whether it was sport, stage, screen or fighting sex discrimination they made modern Scotland.”

Commissioned by BBC Scotland, the series has been produced by Two Rivers Media and follows their previously successful series The Years That Changed Modern Scotland, also presented by Kirsty Wark and first shown in 2021.

This new series has been produced in partnership with The Open University (OU) in Scotland, whose consultants on the series included Dr Kim Barker, Senior Lecturer in Law, and Dr Helen O’Shea, Lecturer in History. Dr Valerie Wright, of the University of Glasgow, also acted as a consultant on the series working with Two Rivers Media.

Says Dr Kim Barker, OU Academic Consultant on the series, “From Shetland to Shettleston women have shaped modern Scotland – its laws, its politics, its culture, its workforce – and this series presents their remarkable stories. Often these women have faced great struggles, yet for many still, their stories remain untold. These are voices that should be heard.”

The first episode of this series, The Disruptors focuses on the 60s and 70s with Kirsty Wark uncovering the stories of women who forged new paths that transformed lives and the country itself…at a time when our laws, political systems and social norms still largely favoured men. Among the stories featured are a campaigner battling the football establishment to win recognition for the women’s game, political pioneers Winnie Ewing and Margo MacDonald, a group of women who wrote for Jackie magazine in Dundee, and the women behind the drama series Sunset Song, a TV adaption of the novel, which broke new ground in its portrayal of the complex inner life of a young Scottish woman. There are also inspiring interviews with some of the country’s first female fire fighters, trade union shop stewards, and women who revolutionised attitudes to domestic violence in ways that reverberated around the world.

The second episode, Having It All, looks at the 80s and 90s when legislative leaps enshrined new rights for women and glass ceilings were smashed, while at the same time everyday sexism and domestic violence remained rife. As well as meeting women who developed successful careers in this period, in fields previously dominated by men, Kirsty tells the stories of those who fought to change the systems and structures that were holding women back.

The third and final part, Breakthroughs and Backlash, brings the story into the modern era and sees more women taking the lead, striving to make a difference across a wide range of issues. But this new prominence comes at a cost, and Kirsty also explores how women are encountering new forms of hostility on social media and beyond.

The first episode of The Women Who Changed Modern Scotland will go out on the BBC Scotland channel on Tuesday February 21 at 10pm, with all three episodes available on BBC iPlayer.

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