Hottie from History #38 - Annie Kenney (3rd September 1879 – 9th July 1953)
Bloody Hell this woman was a force of nature.
- Born in Saddleworth, Manchester to a working class family, from the age of 10 Annie juggled both continuing her schooling and working part time in a cotton Mill. At 13 she had to give up her education to help support her family, working 12 hour shifts as a weaver’s assistant. Mill workers valued child labour in their factories for their small, nimble fingers, able to re-thread broken yarn while the looms were still moving. It was while crouched under the mechanism, furiously entangling when the spindle rattled above her and ripped off one of her fingers.
- These being the days before InjuryLawyers4U, Annie couldn’t do anything about it - complaining would mean losing her job. She therefore stayed at the mill (for almost another 15 years) but got involved with the trade union concerned and started a book club with other young women at the mill - many of them illiterate before Annie got her hands on them.
- In 1905 Annie Kenney was able to attend a meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union, with Emmeline Pankhurst speaking. Fired up by their determination for equality with men, Kenney and Christable Pankhurst (daughter of Emmeline and co-leader of the WSPU) sneaked into a Liberal Party rally and interrupted a young Winston Churchill and the then foreign secretary, asking them in front of the thronged crowds “do you believe women should have the vote?”
- In a stunned silence the ladies were escorted from the building and thrown in Holloway jail. Their arrest was the first of thousands as Suffragettes followed their lead and used more and more militant tactics over the next decade; smashing windows and chaining themselves to King George V’s coach. Women who showed bravery in their protest, either by suffering violence at the hands of policemen or being force-fed while on hunger strike were awarded medals by the WSPU, and Kenney was one of the most decorated ‘soldiers’.
- Kenney’s hard work and determination led to her being made a main leader and organiser of the WSPU, touring England and Wales speaking at rallies on women’s suffrage. She was the only working-class women to attain this level within the hierarchy - an inspiration to other poor women with few or no rights, with little chance of getting out of their meagre circumstances.
- It was only in 1918, when women over the age of 30 got the vote, that Annie settled down and married. This woman was 100% committed to whatever she did, she wasn’t going to let a husband get in the way of her activism. Even though she was a total stunner.
Annie Kenney, we doff our caps to you.