Suffragette Stories

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Flora Drummond and David Lloyd George with munitions workers, 1918

Annie became a leading figure in the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), moving to London to work with Sylvia Pankhurst in the East End. Annie’s exuberant personality made her a charismatic speaker and the archive contains texts of her speeches. At the age of nineteen, Jessie followed Annie to London and secured a job as the Secretary of Mrs Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, a leading suffragette. Two years later, in 1908, she became an organiser at the WSPU headquarters in Clements Inn, London.  In 1910, Jessie became WSPU organiser in Walthamstow, London. She was plagued by ill health, possibly connected to imprisonment and travelled to Switzerland to recover. From there, she went to Paris in 1912 to act as Secretary to an exiled Christabel Pankhurst. Until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Jessie managed the production of an outlawed Suffragette newspaper, travelling to Scotland on a weekly basis to oversee its production, using the false name of Mary Fordyce.

Meanwhile, Annie managed the WSPU’s activities in London, travelling to Paris each week to receive instructions from Christabel.  After World War I, Annie withdrew almost entirely from active politics; she was physically and mentally exhausted. For most of the period 1918-1920 she was occupied with writing her autobiography, published as Memories of a Militant in 1924. Annie was diagnosed with diabetes in 1932, and had uncertain health until her death in 1953.

After World War I, Jessie moved to St Cloud near Paris where she worked for the American Red Cross. She returned to the UK and trained as a ship’s wireless operator, gaining a first class certificate, but was unable to secure employment so became a ship’s steward in the 1930s for the Furness and Orient lines. Aboard ship, she read voraciously, and began to write accounts of her suffrage work, although these remained unpublished.

After World War II, she became secretary and welfare assistant to Battersea County Secondary School until her retirement in Essex. She died in 1985.

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