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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Annie Kenney

b. 1879, Oldham, Lancashire, England; d. 1953, Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England

Annie Kenney, an Oldham textile worker from the age of ten, joined the Independent Labour Party after reading Robert Blatchford’s radical journal The Clarion. A speech by Christabel Pankhurst inspired her commitment to women’s rights, and in 1905 she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The WSPU leaders, often criticized as an elitist league of bourgeois women, shrewdly placed the working-class Kenney in key organizational posts, where she contributed greatly to bolstering the credibility of the suffrage movement among female laborers. Credited with sparking the militancy of the movement, Kenney was jailed many times, engaging in hunger and thirst strikes. She recorded her experiences as a suffragette in Memories of a Militant (1924).