“ALL we want,” said 21-year-old Phyllis Dunipace, “is a cup of coffee and to be treated as human beings. Why,” she asked, “are we treated as being inhuman before noon and then, like Cinderella, it is all right and we can get a coffee? This is blatant discrimination.”

She was speaking as the Women in Action movement staged a two-hour sit-in and picket protest, the second in a fortnight, at the Scottish Milk Centre in Gordon Street, Glasgow, in response to the centre’s ‘Gentlemen only till noon’ policy in its downstairs coffee room. Four young members sat in the downstairs room asking vainly for a pre-noon coffee, while Ms Dunipace and a colleague distributed leaflets and displayed placards outside.

Most male passersby tried to ignore them, but one voiced his support. “I think it is silly not to serve them,” he told a Herald reporter. “My wife is a nurse. What do you think would happen if she refused to help men between 10am and 12 noon? This is 1971, not 1791.”

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Come noon, the ‘gentlemen only’ sign was taken down, and the four women were served, though they had now been joined by four police constables, a sergeant, an inspector and a superintendent. One officer said: “We are taking no action. There has been no breach of the peace.” “Good,” retorted Ms Dunipace. “All we want is a coffee before noon. We will be back.”

The press relations officer of the Scottish Dairy Council, which ran the centre, said: “It has been policy not to permit women downstairs before noon ever since the centre opened about 13 years ago. Businessmen want a place where they can go without having women present. I think it is right and proper to continue our policy. The place has always been for men only and we wish it to continue like that.”