Suffragette Stories

Commemoration

Trip to Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney plaque unveiling ceremony, 1960

From a photograph album.

Throughout their lives, Annie and Christabel recalled the events of 13 October 1905, writing to each other on the anniversary of the raising of the ‘Votes for Women’ banner in Manchester Free Trade Hall. However, they were wary when others tried to tell their story. Letters in the archive reveal Christabel’s reluctance to co-operate with biographers, film and radio producers.

Trip to Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney plaque unveiling ceremony, 1960

From a photograph album.

In 1960, after her death, Annie’s name was included – alongside that of Christabel Pankhurst - on a plaque at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, commemorating the event.  Many former suffragettes, by then old women, travelled to Manchester to see the plaque unveiled. The archive contains a number of moving photographs of these women on their journey. They took with them the original banner which Annie had waved in 1905.

Trip to Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney plaque unveiling ceremony, 1960

From a photograph album.

One of the earliest attempts to commemorate the work of the suffragettes was the creation of ‘Annie’s Arboretum.’ This was a plantation of trees in the grounds of Eagle House, on the outskirts of Bath. Its owners, the Blathwayt family, became friends with Annie when she ran the Bristol branch of the WSPU. They opened their home to suffragettes in need of recuperation after a period of imprisonment, inviting them to plant a tree to mark their sacrifice. The arboretum, named for Annie, was carefully planned and the Blathwayts marked each tree with a plaque showing the date, the species and the name of the suffragette honoured.  At the time the trees were planted, Votes for Women must have seemed a remote prospect, with the suffragettes at best marginalised and frequently demonised by society. The honour of planting a tree was a promise for the future.  The Blathwayt family continued to care for the trees, writing to Annie with accounts of how they were thriving until her death in 1953. 

Trip to Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney plaque unveiling ceremony, 1960

From a photograph album.

The destruction of the plantation in the 1960s to build a housing estate is poignant given the care the Blathwayt family gave to the plantation for over forty years. It also suggests that the commitment and sacrifices made by the sixty or so women memorialised in the plantation was no longer being valued by society as worthy of commemoration.

Commemoration