Photograph of Annie Kenney

Annie and Jessie’s father, Horatio, was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, the son of William Kenney, a smith's labourer, and his wife Agnes.  Their mother, Ann Wood was the daughter of James Wood, a cotton carder. They were married at Leesfield parish church in April 1873, Horatio being described as a cotton self actor minder and Ann a cotton card room hand, and are buried together in Greenacres municipal cemetery, Oldham.

Ann was very much the matriarch, a strong warm character. Annie described how her mother’s philosophy was to “Be kind to others, tolerant and sympathetic. We were never allowed in her hearing to say either unkind things about others or to abuse others in any way”. Ann’s death in January 1905 clearly devastated the family, and Jessie signals it as the point at which the family broke up.

Horatio is more elusive. He appears to have been something of an introvert, preferring the company of his livestock or a walk on the moors to the animated discussions that followed high tea on Sundays. He was recognised locally as an expert in folk medicine and the care of animals. For most of his life he worked in the cotton mills, save for an ultimately unsuccessful venture into business as a stationer.

Caroline Kenney and Jane (Jenny) Kenney were the sixth and eighth children. They too worked as mill operatives before training as teachers, studying with Maria Montessori in Rome.  In 1915, they established a Montessori school in Campden Hill. They were suffragettes, and appear to have played a supporting role, providing a refuge for women  temporarily released from prison under the "Cat and Mouse" Act at Campden Hill. In 1916, they emigrated to the USA, teaching in New York and Philadelphia before settling in California.

AK.1.1 licence.jpg

Marriage licence fee slip

Sarah Ellen (Nell) Kenney (1876 - 1953) was the third child. She was born in Lees, Lancashire. Like her sisters, she was put to work in the cotton mills at an early age. However, in 1907, she was working as a shop girl in Bingley, Yorkshire, when she was arrested and imprisoned for demonstrations at the House of Commons.  After her release she travelled to the South of France, where she confronted Prime Minister Campbell Bannerman in Cannes over Votes for women.  Nell became a local WSPU organiser in the West Midlands. There, during an open-air suffragette meeting she met a young journalist, Frank Randall Clarke (1872-1955). They married and in 1908-9 emigrated to Canada. They eventually settled in Montreal where Frank, after initially working as a journalist, became active in schemes for the training and employment of the disabled.

Two of Annie and Jessie’s brothers also achieved eminence in their field. Reginald (Reg) Kenney (1873-1954), the eldest child, left the mill to become a representative for a firm of wholesale booksellers.  In 1935 he stood (unsuccessfully) as the parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Party in the Bradford North constituency. Rowland Kenney (1882-1961), the seventh child, became a journalist and eventually joined the diplomatic service, where he worked chiefly in Scandinavia. He published an autobiography, Westering, in 1939.

In August 1918, Annie met James Taylor, whom she married in April 1920. James was born in London and worked as a metalworker before World War I, when he enlisted in the King’s Royal Rifles. In February 1921 Annie gave birth to her only child, a son, Warwick Kenney-Taylor. In 1923 the Taylor family moved from London to Letchworth, where James worked as a maintenance engineer at St Christopher’s School. Warwick served in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II and subsequently became an engineer. He later deposited Annie’s papers in UEA’s archive.