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Who was Annie Kenney? Suffragette and WSPU member arrested 13 times and endured hunger strikes

Annie Kenney was a working class suffragette who became one of the leading figures in the WSPU

ANNIE Kenney is remembered as one of the most fearless figures in the suffragette movement, risking arrest or worse to secure the vote for women.

Here we look at her role in the Women's Social Political Union (WSPU) and the nature of her many arrests...

 Annie Kenney, left, is remembered as one of the most fearless figures in the suffragette movement
Media Drum World
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Annie Kenney, left, is remembered as one of the most fearless figures in the suffragette movement

Who was Annie Kenney?

Annie Kenney was born in Springhead, in what is now Greater Manchester, in 1879.

"As one of twelve children, she received only a minimal education in the village school," Helen Rappaport wrote in Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers.

She tells how Kenney was sent out to work part-time at the local mill in 1889, when she was just ten.

Kenney became involved in the suffrage movement after hearing Christabel Pankhurst speak about women's rights, iNews reports.

 English suffragette Annie Kenney is arrested during a demonstration
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English suffragette Annie Kenney is arrested during a demonstration

The two became friends and when the WSPU opened a branch in east London, she decided to work for them full-time.

Her first arrest came during meeting held by Winston Churchill in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester on October 13, 1905.

"If you are elected, will you do your best to make Woman Suffrage a Government Measure?" Kenney asked before both she and Christabel were removed.

She was put in jail for three days and would go on to be arrested 12 more times and took part in brutal hunger strikes.

What was the Women's Social Political Union?

The Women's Social Political Union (WSPU) was a militant group which campaigned for women's suffrage in the UK between 1913 and 1917.

It was well known for staging hunger strikes, breaking windows of prominent buildings and setting unoccupied houses and churches on fire at night.

Thanks largely to them, Parliament passed the 1918 Representation of the People Act allowed women who were householders over the age of 30 the right to vote.

However, it was not until 1928's Equal Franchise Act that all women aged over 21 were allowed to vote - a right already given to men.

What was the suffragette movement?

Suffragettes violently campaigned for the female right to vote as early as the late 18th century.

After 50 years had passed and no sign of change, Pankhurst suggested drastic action was needed in order to secure their right.

WSPU members were determined to obtain the right to vote for women by violent means.

But there were also moderate women's groups who campaigned for the right to vote in a more peaceful manner, known as suffragists.

 The Women's Social Political Union (WSPU) was a militant group which campaigned for women's suffrage
Times Newspapers Ltd
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The Women's Social Political Union (WSPU) was a militant group which campaigned for women's suffrage

How was Emmeline Pankhurst involved in the WSPU?

Emmeline Pankhurst was the leader of the British suffragette movement and pivotal in securing women's right to vote.

Born in Moss Side, Manchester in 1858 to politically active parents, she founded the WSPU.

She married barrister Richard Pankhurst, who was well known for supporting women’s rights, in 1879.

In 1889, Emmeline founded the Women’s Franchise League which fought to allow married women to vote in local elections.

 Emmeline Pankhurst was a political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement
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Emmeline Pankhurst was a political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement

And 14 years later, in 1903 she began the WSPU, a more militant organisation that gained notoriety for its activities.

The WSPU was christened the "suffragettes" and Emmeline was arrested on numerous occasions while fighting for women's rights.

Emmeline died aged 69 on June 14, 1928 - shortly after women were granted equal voting rights with men (at 21).