Letter From The First Suffragette To Be Jailed in UK Discovered

Annie Kenney wrote the letter the day after she was released from prison in Manchester.

annie kenney
English suffragette Annie Kenney (1879 - 1953) is arrested during a demonstration. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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A previously unknown letter written by Annie Kenney, the first suffragette to be jailed during Britain’s campaign for the vote, has been discovered by an Oxford historian. Kenney wrote the letter the day after she was released from prison in Manchester in 1905, and according to the BBC, it is being touted as the earliest known letter from a woman involved in the militant protests.

The letter was sent to her sister, and found by Lyndsey Jenkins, a historian, in an archive in Canada while Jenkins was researching the Kenny family. Annie Kenney’s sister had later emigrated to Canada.

“This is the first account by a woman about what it’s like to go to prison for the vote,” Jenkins, a history lecturer at the University of Oxford, told BBC. “At this moment, they don’t know what’s going to happen, that they’re going to be successful. She’s risked everything. This could be the worst mistake of her life. She doesn’t know there’s going to be a positive reaction.”

Annie Kenney was a working-class woman from Oldham, who started working in a cotton mill at the age of 10. Though her role in the suffragette movement has often been downplayed, according to Jenkins, she played a prominent role in the suffragettes’ campaign and effectively led it between 1912 and 1914. She was jailed several times and took part in hunger strikes. Her first jailing was seen as a pivotal moment in the movement, writes BBC. 

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