Woman of the Day – Annie Kenney

ALT: Green Party Women Celebrating Women’s History Month

Day 7: Woman of the Day, Annie Kenney


In March 1906 Annie Kenney was arrested trying to get into 10 Downing Street!

Annie was a working class suffragette powerhouse who became a leading figure in the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) alongside the Pankhursts.

Born in Oldham in 1879 into a working class family of 12 children, her parents encouraged education, debate and socialism.

Annie started work at the cotton mills at 10 years old, working 12 hour shifts, losing one of her fingers fixing the bobbins. Weaving machines in the mills were not routinely turned off for repairs, so missing fingers were common for the women and the children who worked on them.

Trade Union Activity

Annie was active in her trade union and in 1905 she and her sister Jessie heard Teresa Billington-Greig and Christabel Pankhurst speak at the Oldham socialist Clarion Vocal Club. Annie described Billington’s message as “a sledgehammer of cold logic and reason”. She threw herself into suffrage activism: making speeches, leafletting, demonstrating and organising. Annie quickly rose up to become part of the leadership of the WSPU.

Along with Minnie Baldock, another factory worker and suffragette, she started the first London branch of the WSPU in Canning Town in 1906 and later a second branch in Manchester.

Annie spoke at mass meetings for working class women all over the country. She and the other women were often violently attacked by anti-suffrage groups, mainly men and the police.


Annie was arrested many times and received 13 prison sentences. She was one of the first suffragettes to serve a prison sentence after she disrupted a political meeting in Manchester, heckling the speakers and unfurling a banner demanding votes for women.

At one trial when offered the choice of six weeks in prison or giving up campaigning for a year, Annie and the two women arrested with her chose to go to prison. 

She was also force fed numerous times and campaigned to highlight the inhumanity of this punishment and the Cat and Mouse Act that enabled it. On release from prison on one occasion, still weak from force feeding, she arranged to be taken straight to a suffragette meeting on a stretcher with the press waiting.


Annie had close relationships with many of the women in WSPU and in particular Christabel Pankhurst. She was loved by all for her pluck and wit. After women over 30 won the vote in 1918, she married James Taylor and had a son, Warwick. She died in July 1953 at the age of 73.

Annie’s legacy as a fearless and tireless activist for women’s suffrage continues to inspire generations of feminists and social justice advocates. She is remembered and celebrated with a blue plaque in Oldham and her name is etched on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London. Remember Annie if you visit these places.

“It is no good women thinking of other people doing it. It is your duty, every woman in this audience not only to sympathise with militancy, it is your duty to create such a situation, that unless you all take your part in creating that situation, that situation will not be created.”

Annie Kenney speaking at The Strand, London.
31 January 1913




Diana Atkinson (2019) Rise Up Women: the Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes.  London: Bloomsbury

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