Annie Kenney– September 13, 1879 – July 9, 1953
Annie Kenney was a working-class suffragette who is credited with sparking off suffragette militancy when she heckled Winston Churchill
During a Liberal rally at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, in October, 1905, she and Christabel Pankhurst interrupted a political meeting to ask Churchill and Sir Edward Grey if they believed women should have the right to vote.
Neither man replied. The two women got out a banner declaring “Votes for Women“, and shouted at the two politicians to answer their questions. Kenney and Pankhurst were thrown out of the meeting and arrested for causing an obstruction and a technical assault on a police officer. Annie Kenney was imprisoned for three days for her part in the protest. Annie was jailed 13 times in total.
Emmeline Pankhurst later wrote in her autobiography that:
“this was the beginning of a campaign the like of which was never known in England, or for that matter in any other country …we interrupted a great many meetings… and we were violently thrown out and insulted. Often we were painfully bruised and hurt.”
Born in Springhead, near Oldham, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, on the 13 September 1879, the daughter of Nelson Horatio Kenney and Anne Wood, Annie Kenney studied the great thinkers at an early age and joined the Pankhursts in the women’s movement after she spent time working in a cotton mill. She was the only working-class woman to become part of the senior hierarchy of the Women’s Social and Political Union, becoming deputy in 1912, unusual in such a middle-class organisation.
She took her message as far afield as France and America, but eventually married and settled in Letchworth, Herts, after women won the vote in 1918.
She died on the 9 July 1953. In 1999, Oldham put up a blue plaque in her honour at Leesbrook Mill where she started work in 1892.
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