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The Rebel Suffragette (Hardback)

The Life of Edith Rigby

P&S History Social History Women of History 20th Century Biographies 19th Century

By Beverley Adams
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 168
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526773906
Published: 30th September 2021


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RRP £19.99

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The suffragette movement swept the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Led by the Pankhursts, the focus of the movement was in London with demonstrations and rallies taking place across the capital. But this was a nationwide movement with a strong northern influence with Edith Rigby being an ardent supporter. Edith was a controversial figure, not only was she was the first woman to own and ride a bicycle in her home town but she was founder of a school for girls and young women. Edith followed the example of Emmeline Pankhurst and her supporters and founded the Preston branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union. She was found guilty of arson and an attempted bomb attack in Liverpool following which she was incarcerated and endured hunger strike forming part of the ‘Cat and Mouse’ system with the government. During a political rally with Winston Churchill Edith threw a black pudding at a MP.

There are many tales to tell in the life of Edith Rigby, she was charismatic, passionate, ruthless and thoroughly unpredictable. She was someone who rejected the accepted notion of what a woman of her class should be the way she dressed and the way she ran her household but she was independent in mind and spirit and always had courage in her own convictions. As a suffragette, she was just as effective and brave as the Pankhurst women. This is the story of a life of a lesser known suffragette. This is Edith’s story.

I was drawn to this book by the title as I had not heard of Edith Rigby and was interested in what Beverley Adams believed made her a rebel suffragette. I had thought of all the women involved in fighting for the women’s vote as rebels, after all, they were seeking to undermine the political power men exerted (well, some men) through the ballot box, and ultimately in parliament. However, I soon realised that Adams was indeed right to describe Edith Rigby as a rebel, denoting her as special in her adoption of the cause for women’s voting rights, and others she espoused. I also regret having been in Preston for a conference and not realising that in that city there were remnants of a history that I would have been thrilled to learn.

Beverley Adams acknowledges that there is limited information about Edith Rigby and has accordingly set her story in the context of general suffragette and suffragist history, the context of Preston and its industrial environment, World Wars 1 and 2, and Edith Rigby’s activities after the women’s vote was achieved. The material she has is not only absorbing, but also dramatic in parts, providing a story of the way in which her family reacted to her activism, including her husband’s steadfast support, and although acknowledging and describing well known activists, does not give them centre stage. Edith Rigby’s story becomes part of the history of the time, weaving women’s responses to women’s activism on their behalf, wider historical events, and domestic concerns in a thoroughly engaging narrative...

There is an index and a further reading list. In addition, there is a useful debate and discussion about the way in which the suffragettes used violence to achieve their aims. This is a strong depiction of one woman who fought for British women’s voting rights, as well as a briefly observed, but useful, political, and economic history of the time.

NetGalley, Robin Joyce

I think this is a really worthwhile biography - Edith was clearly a fascinating woman and I greatly appreciated being able to learn about her place in the suffrage movement. I've seen the picture of her being removed from the gates of Parliament and had no idea who she was!

NetGalley, Alexandra Pierce

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

At least, so believed the government and many men of the day.

In many a backward place, women have been second-class citizens for centuries untold, but they kept their peace, until...Enter the Suffragettes!

This book takes a fascinating look at the almost 100 year battle to achieve the right for women to vote on equal basis as men. The campaign, Vote for Women, raged throughout the United Kingdom, propelled by courageous, determined and self-sacrificing women who had had enough of all the injustices perpetuated towards women. The voting right realized would be symbolic towards bringing about the necessary changes.

Among the women who upheld this cause was the plucky, intrepid Edith Rigby. This biography of her role in this fight is representative of many like her who endured arrest, police brutality and abuse within the prison systems. This "crusade" towards equality with men continues to this day as author Beverley Adams spells out in her book, The Rebel Suffragette.

NetGalley, Eunice Chin

About Beverley Adams

Beverley Adams was born and raised in Preston, Lancashire. She gained her BA (Hons) in English Literature and her MA in English with The Open University. Her interests include history, in particular local history, reading, travel and following Preston North End Football Club. She works in the Private Sector and this is her first book.

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