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Sapphic Suffragettes

Hilary McCollum puts the lesbians and bi women in the suffragette movement under the spotlight.

Hilary McCollum

Wed, 21 Oct 2015 13:39:15 GMT | Updated 1 years today

"Miss Browne is sleeping in Annie's room now."


So wrote Mary Blathwayt when ousted from the bed of suffragette Annie Kenney. Mary had met Annie at a women's suffrage meeting and adored her from the start. She was not the only one. At least two other suffragettes, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Clare Mordan, said they had fallen in love with Annie the first time they met her. 


The nature of these relationships concerned some in the movement. After the vote was won, Teresa Billington-Greig said, "There was an immediate and strong emotional attraction between Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Annie Kenney... indeed so emotional and so openly paraded that it frightened me. I saw it as something unbalanced and primitive and possibly dangerous to the movement".


Annie Kenney was a mill worker from Oldham who joined the Women's Social And Political Union (the militant suffragette organisation founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters) after hearing Christabel Pankhust speak at a suffrage meeting in 1905. Annie was drawn to Christabel who invited her to come to tea the next Saturday. She said: "The following week I lived on air, I simply could not eat… It was as though half of me was present, where the other half was I never asked."


Annie and Christabel became inseparable and were soon the first women to be arrested in the suffrage cause after unfurling a banner at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester saying, "Will you give Votes for Women?" 




Find out more about the fascinating lives of lesbian and bi suffragettes in the November issue of DIVA. On sale now at the links below. 


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Only reading DIVA online? You're missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It's pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.  //  //

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