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New OU/BBC series showcases remarkable Scottish women

Presenter Kirsty Wark sitting in front of the Scottish Parliament building

A new three-part series The Women Who Changed Modern Scotland will tell the story of women who had a role in shaping Scotland over the last 50 years. 

Presented by Kirsty Wark, the OU/BBC co-production will highlight the women who, throughout the decades have challenged the status quo, defied sexism to seize new opportunities and in more recent years, have stepped up to lead in politics, in their communities and in the workplace.

Well-known names such as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and actress and OU honorary graduate Elaine C Smith, will be profiled alongside an extraordinary range of women who may not be household names, but their passion and commitment have changed the lives of everyone in Scotland.

The Women Who Changed Modern Scotland has been produced as part of a 50-year plus partnership between The Open University and the BBC to co-produce up to 35 TV, radio, digital and online projects a year. Broadcasts aim to inspire through innovative exploration of subjects and engaging teaching materials.

The first episode will transmit on BBC Scotland at 10pm on Tuesday 21 February and the entire series will also be available to view on BBC iPlayer. 

The Open University academic consultants on the series were Dr Kim Barker, Senior Lecturer in Law and Dr Helen O’Shea, Lecturer in History.

Dr Kim Barker said:

“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.” 

Series presenter, Kirsty Wark said: 

"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."

The first episode of this series, The Disruptors, focusses on the 60s and uncovers the stories of women who forged new paths in a society that largely favoured men.

They campaigned, they cajoled, they sang, they bravely made a path and encouraged others to follow."

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.

Further information

Visit OU Connect to view two short films featuring a host of inspiring women from the world of Scottish politics, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, for exclusive insights on: ‘Why don’t more women go into politics?’ and ‘What are the benefits of more women in politics?’.

Visit The Open University | Courses and Qualifications for more information about our courses related to law, arts and humanities and social sciences.

20 February 2023


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