Mary was a key figure in the 1915 Rent Strikes, which exposed and protested against landlords who took advantage of the wartime economy to hike up rents for workers, evicting those who could not pay. The protests forced a change in the law with the introduction of the Rent Restrictions Act. She was elected as one of the first woman Councillors for Glasgow, in 1920, and appointed the first woman Bailie (similar to an alderman) of the City in 1924. From 1925, Barbour was Chairman of the Glasgow Women’s Welfare and Advisory Clinic, the first site offering advice on birth control in Scotland.

The sculpture, by Andrew Brown, shows her leading rent strikers who were dubbed “Mrs Barbour’s Army”. It was unveiled on March 8, 2018, International Womens’ Day. Funds were privately raised by the Remember Mary Barbour Association.

Also a peace activist, Barbour was a founder of the Women’s Peace Crusade (WPC) at the “Great Women’s Peace Conference” in June 1916. The WPC campaigned throughout June and July 1916 for a negotiated settlement to World War I. The Russian Revolution and the Irish Easter Uprising paused the women’s peace initiative, but it revived a year later. Mary spoke at open air meetings to as many as 10,000 people.

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