Annie Kenney (1879 – 1953)

Annie Kenney was a leading Suffragette. There are claims that she was involved in lesbian relationships during her time in Bristol. Whether or not these are accurate, she is included here as a representative of the Suffragette movement in Bristol (a significant centre of the campaign), the impact of which has shaped the political history of Britain and of the Women’s Movement in the later 20th century.

Annie Kenney 1879-1953

Annie Kenney in 1909

Annie Kenney was born in Oldham, and began work in a cotton mill at the age of 10. She heard the Pankhursts speak at a meeting in Manchester in 1905, and quickly became an active member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

Mary Blathwayt 1879-1962

Mary Blathwayt in 1909

In 1907 she became the organiser for the South-West, and was based in Bristol until October 1911. She frequently stayed at the Bristol home of Mary Blathwayt, a Suffragette and member of the family which owned Dyrham Park near Bath. According to Martin Pugh, Kenney and Blathwayt had a lesbian affair, and Kenney may also have had a brief affair with Christabel Pankhurst. Blathwayt’s diaries document Kenney’s relationships with other Suffragettes in Bristol from 1908, e.g. she shared her bedroom with Miss Browne in August 1908, and with Clara Codd a month later. Pugh’s claims are disputed by June Purvis (The Times Educational Supplement, January 25, 2002) on the grounds of inaccuracies, lack of scholastic rigour and the over-interpretation of the fact that women shared bedrooms.

In 1910, after living in a series of digs in Bristol, Kenney moved into a flat at 23 Gordon Road, Clifton, where a blue plaque was recently erected. Mary Blathwayt disapproved (flat living ‘carried connotations of immorality’), refused to visit her there, and returned to live at Batheaston.

Annie married John Taylor in April 1920 and had a son the following year. She lived from the 1920s in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, and died aged 73 on July 9, 1953.

Images courtesy of Bath In Time – www.bathintime.co.uk 

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Sources:
The Kenney Papers, University of East Anglia
‘Diary Reveals Lesbian Love Trysts’, The Observer, June 11, 2000
Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts, (Penguin), 2001
The Times Educational Supplement, January 25, 2002
Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement, Routledge, 2001

Andrew Foyle
Last edited: 6/11/2011

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