International Women’s Week: Anne Blyth
After nearly 100 years of GUSA’s existence, Anne Blyth was elected president after her third year of medicine. At a time where both the unions were still single sex, she had to sneak into the beer bar dressed as a man just to hear herself elected. Anne is also the only GUSA President to have never sat on the GUU board, as her male Vice President had to take this role for her.
To celebrate International Women’s Week, GUSA would like to focus on our first female president who was elected in 1974 back when GUSA was known as GUAC (Glasgow University Athletics Club). After nearly 100 years of GUAC’s existence, Anne Blyth was elected president after her third year of medicine. At a time where both the unions were still single sex, she had to sneak into the beer bar dressed as a man just to hear herself elected. Anne is also the only GUAC/GUSA president to have never sat on the GUU board, as her male Vice President had to take this role for her.
When speaking to Anne, she said that she was also the first female secretary, a position that naturally progressed into president and when she was elected into this role it was “quite controversial”. Anne has however said in the past she was always encouraged into moving through the GUAC ranks by fellow members. She remembers wearing her swimsuit under her evening dress to honour the tradition of being dunked in a bath when elected and talks of her biggest achievement of the year as being developing the bar at Westerlands to create a social hub run and used by GUAC. Anne also speaks proudly of raising the profile of GUAC and increasing the number of sections.
As well as being the first elected female secretary and then president of GUAC, Anne was also the first female to be awarded the Oxford Silver Medal in its one hundred and four-year history for her service and dedication to the association. Anne speaks of a time where equality was really just beginning at the university and the importance of women showing their capabilities to take these roles.
A note from Isabella Heath, President Elect:
It was eye opening to speak with Anne and to hear of her time with GUAC and about just how different things were. As well as the changes in how the association was run and the (obviously very sad) loss of our bar, the idea that not long ago the notion of a female president was so new and to some controversial is one I’m sure you’ll all agree is difficult to comprehend. Since Anne we have now had a great number of female presidents and one all-female exec in 2015-16. I’m sure we can all agree that we are very grateful for those who took the first bold steps in overcoming the challenges of the time. I’d like to thank Anne for taking the time to speak with me and share her GUAC story.