Mary Burns Laird

So far, no photo of Mary Burns Laird has come to light, despite extensive searching. Perhaps someone reading this can find one? (But readers should beware, as there is another Mrs Laird active in the same area at the same time!

Mary Burns Laird first came to SWAC’s attention through the medium of this poster, the only remaining poster of a Rent Strike meeting. (1915).

Research found that she had presented detailed evidence to a Royal Commission on Housing in Scotland in 1913.

In 1914. Along with others, she founded the Glasgow Women’s Housing Association, and worked with Mary Barbour, Helen Crawfurd, Agnes Dollan and Mary Jeff to improve housing conditions.


“Tenement property might look prosperous from the outside, but in the houses there was a constant struggle and anxiety to bring up a family in decency. Why should the working class wife have to wait till she reached middle age before she attained accommodation in comparative comfort.”

Scotsman, Tuesday January 5, 1915

In 1919, she was elected to the Glasgow Education Authority, showing in her election address that she also recognised the importance of families and children:

“Mrs Burns Laird that one of the main planks of their opponents was ‘economy’. She objected to economy at the expense of the children. The Labour Group would economise by having work done by their own departments rather than private contractors”

Mary Burns Laird was elected Treasurer of the Scottish Labour Housing Association in 1922.

She died in Prestwick in 1944 aged 81.

Wise words from Mrs Mary Burns Laird

On housing…