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Annie Kenney was a Suffragette campaigner and the only working class woman to become a senior leader of the Women's Social and Political Union.
Annie, born in Lancashire, was often portrayed by the WSPU as a working class 'Mill Girl'. However, although she spent a short time working in a mill factory, she came from a highly cultured family home where she was exposed to a wide range of books and broad education. In 1906 Annie was sent by the WSPU to 'rouse' London' where she addressed meetings, canvassed women and led deputations to Parliament.
She joined the WSPU in 1905 and toured the north of England speaking to meetings and advocating the suffrage cause. She was a charismatic speaker, chairing the speeches on Platform 3 at Hyde Park on Women's Sunday, 1908. From 1907 she was appointed WSPU organiser in the west of England on a salary of £2 a week.
Along with Christabel Pankhurst, Kenney committed the first militant Suffragette act in October 1905. They were the first Suffragettes to be arrested and imprisoned for interrupting a Liberal meeting in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. She served 13 prison sentences in total for her Suffragette activities.
Kenney was utterly loyal to the Pankhursts, becoming deputy leader of the WSPU when Christabel fled to France in 1912. Annie was given control of WSPU headquarters to ensure Christabel's policy of militancy was carried through. In 1913 Annie was found guilty of conspiracy to inflict damage to property. Sentenced to three years' imprisonment there she went on hunger strike before being repeatedly released under the terms of the Cat & Mouse Act. Kenney's three sisters and brother were also committed to the Suffragette campaign.
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