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The Rebel Suffragette (Hardback)

The Life of Edith Rigby

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

By Beverley Adams
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 168
ISBN: 9781526773906
Published: 23rd September 2021



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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.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is brilliant, a much needed new look at a forgotten hero. It’s well researched and brilliantly written. I highly recommend it.

NetGalley, Rebecca B

"Adams comments that beyond Preston the name of Edith Rigby is largely forgotten. This book is a timely reminder that
in all of our communities there are women, and men, who were trailblazers and fighters for a myriad of causes and ventures,
who should be remembered and honoured and Adam’s book is a wonderful example and a fascinating captivating read."

Family & Community Historical Research Society Newsletter, June 2022

As featured in

Lancashire Post

This is a book written with fervour for the story of Edith Rigby and for the cause of women’s suffrage generally as well as in Edith’s hometown of Preston. This biography brings Edith to life and in so doing puts meat onto the bones of Preston’s local history, painting a colourful picture of the town at the time and its inhabitants. This local history resonates within the greater history of the suffrage movement and allows the story of one of the lesser-known suffragettes to be told.

Adams tells a compelling story of the societal difficulties faced by a woman daring to be different. It has been well researched and there is indeed an index and a reading list, however I should have liked to have seen more detail when it came to the sources. This is particularly relevant when it comes to those passages where Adams speaks for Edith and her family; specific referencing of sources would dispel presumptions of supposition or even assumption.

Adams tells an interesting, wide ranging, story that is easily read. This book should have a general appeal and should be of particular interest to local historians as well as to those interested in the cause of women’s suffrage.

Dr Dinah Evans, Bangor University - Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

As featured in

Lancashire Post

As featured in

Lancashire Post

This is one of the most interesting books about the suffragette movement I have ever read, lively and fascinating.

Books Monthly

This was a fantastic little story about a woman who stood up to society and helped women achieve what they have today. I really recommend this book as a good little read.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

As featured in

Lancashire Life

As seen in The Lancashire Post!
'Night protesters targeted Churchill with potatoes! A new book looks at the life and times of Preston suffragette Edith Rigby. In a special article author Beverley Adams recalls the time Rigby led a protest which sparked riots on the streets of Preston...'

Author specialist article

I loved getting to know Edith and learning more about the movement that allowed me to have the rights that I enjoy today. Well written, fascinating, compelling and poignant, this book is a reminder of what these ladies endured and the debt we owe them for fighting for our rights.

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Instagram, @emmas.biblio.treasures

This is a well written and researched autobiography about a woman who didn’t accept her ‘place’. Born to a lower middle class family in Preston, they lived in a house which was part home and part surgery where her father was doctor to the local mill working community. I enjoyed learning about Edith’s upbringing because it influenced her thirst for knowledge, individuality and equality. She saw how gender and particularly class, affected a child’s future and went out of her way to help. Her actions within movement were engaging reading, but I found other aspects of her life interesting too. She was the first woman in her area to ride a bicycle and persisted with it, despite being pelted with vegetables, and even preached against by the local vicar. She liked the freedom her own transport gave her. Luckily, she found a man who enjoyed her vivacious and free spirit, because she set out her stall from the wedding day. She was adamant she was keeping her Christian name, so instead of being named Dr and Mrs Charles Rigby they became Dr Charles and Mrs Edith Rigby. Having kept my own surname when married I felt a kinship with Edith and I also share her love of North Wales. Her determination to live by her principles was inspiring and it’s clearly this that inspired the school for young women she founded. It also inspired the lengths she went to for the cause including arson, planning a bombing in Liverpool and going on hunger strike in prison. I applaud the author for bringing this incredibly strong woman to our attention and I recommend the book highly.

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Instagram, @hayleylotus

The Rebel Suffragette by Beverley Adams is the story of Edith Rigby, who was key in the suffragette campaign and often forgotten despite her significant role. Like others, she went on hunger strikes, was arrested and was also an arsonist amongst many other activities! Although there is generally a focus around other suffragettes, the contribution of other women shouldn’t be forgotten and as founder of the Preston branch of the WSPU Edith really shouldn’t be ignored.

I really enjoyed learning about Edith and her life, and I also liked Beverley’s connection and how she explained why she wanted to tell Edith’s important story. And of course, I’m delighted to be reading about more Northerners (especially if they throw black puddings)!

This book is perfect for those who are interested in women’s history and social history

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Instagram, @whatkatyreadnext

What I find scary this Halloween is the lack of history about northern suffragettes…

And that is exactly what Beverley Adam’s books brings to the spotlight. In it’s examination of the life of Preston suffragette Edith Rigby. Radical and militant, these women played a massive part in a nationwide movement, yet hardly ever get the recognition they deserve!

As you all know, these sorts of studies hold a special place in my heart. My dissertation covers a similar area, so it’s brilliant to see some accessible history being written.

For those who want to learn more, this is a great starting point!

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Instagram, @history.herstory

Like many many women of this time, Edith was gutsy and determined, and I particularly enjoyed getting to know a new player in the movement, rather than the ones we learn about at school. Overall, this book is an excellent companion to explore the various factors impacting the movement, whilst getting a closer look at one of it’s members in a more localised and personal way.

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Instagram, @historywithsiobhan

“She was a trailblazer, a fighter, a wife and a mother and thanks to women like her, women like me have the freedom and a right to vote.”

This well researched and extremely readable book puts Edith into context with the whole suffragette movement, the historical context of the time, the things that were fought for and the rights that we are still fighting for today.

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Instagram, @thebookdiaryofmisshewlett

Passionate and forceful, Ediths story is the story of women standing up for their rights, strength, fortitude and bravery. One that should not be forgotten,

This is meticulously researched, really well written and totally readable... what's next Bev?

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Instagram, @travels.along.my.bookshelf

I loved this book and learning about Edith. She was such an inspiring woman. My favourite quote from the book which I feel really summed her up is "she was independent in mind and spirit and always had courage in her convictions."
This book gave a history about the women's suffrage movement, and the women behind it and the men who supported them.
I would really recommend this to anyone with an interest in both women's history and social history.

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Instagram, @readingwithleanne

This volume is dedicated to her life and the account of her helping the #Suffragette case, but her story represents even more. It tells a tale of a hero on a quest for a change - in order for the world to be as it should, not as it is. I have a feeling that this plucky feisty heroine would suit well in any story about justice. Though I would not have wished her to participate in the Peasants’ Revolt or Pilgrimage of Grace, perhaps.

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Instagram, @natalieisahistorybuff

“Charismatic, passionate, ruthless and throughly unpredictable” - welcome to the life of Edith Rigby. You are in for a treat! The book begins with some really good background information of the campaign and then Beverley Adams takes us all across the country following Edith’s life, from Preston to London, from Manchester to Wales, meeting many people along the way. Militancy is a theme particularly prominent throughout this book due to Edith’s involvement and so it’s a real eye opener to the brutality of the campaign. It’s a brilliant piece of research and also includes some chapters on other themes including men and royalty, alongside Edith’a life. This book is another reminder of why it is so important we keep researching women’s suffrage from a local level and this is wonderfully summarised in the final chapter.

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Instagram, @historian_ellis

It’s clear from reading this book that Edith was an incredible woman who was ahead of their time: she wore whatever she wanted, did whatever she wanted, and ignored the narrow-minded views of those around her. I would go so far as to describe her as a feminist icon.

What I enjoyed about this book was that it was evident how much research had gone into it. It didn’t only discuss Edith’s connection to the suffragettes, it also went into great detail about events in her life. It was interesting to learn about her adopted son; her work into other campaigns, especially the ones involving domestic abuse victims; and how she defied social and gender expectations from a young age.

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Instagram, @tattooedliteraryresearcher

There is the feel of an academic textbook about the writing, yet there is also a nice informality about it, with some observations made in the first person. In the end, the most rewarding thing was learning about someone who I otherwise would perhaps never have heard of, and Edith definitely sounded like quite a character. It was interesting to read her story.

Read the full review here

Stephen Writer Blog

This work gives a great background to the movement of the suffragettes as a whole but it's focus on Edith and her unconventional life offer a great insight into what the movement was like outside the main of hub of London.

Read the full review via here

Instagram, @when_cathy_met_heathcliffe

This whole book is a testament to the sacrifices made in order to fight for the rights we take for granted today. And those rights for which we are still fighting for.

Read the full review here

Instagram, @wendyreadsbooks

This is a really great look at Edith as well as the movement in general and if you're fairly new to the subject I highly recommend starting with The Rebel Suffragette.

Read the full review via here

Instagram, @sarasreadingdiary

I really enjoyed The Rebel Suffragette; I feel it has given me more insight into the subject... Author Beverley wrote in the preface of her book that she hoped she had done Edith the justice she deserves, in my opinion, she definitely has!

Read the full review via Instagram

Instagram, @historyart10

Beverley has clearly put a lot of time and effort into researching Edith and along with the background of Victorian Britain has managed to create a very interesting read.

This book, whilst short, highlights what extraordinary things can help when a group of ordinary women come together. For me, one of the most eye opening things about this book is when Beverley summarises that although equality has come a long way - there is still a long way to go.

I grew up less than 20 miles from Preston, so the fact that the majority of this book was new information for me was shocking. I would recommend picking up a copy of this book, even if it is not your usual genre - it might just surprise you.

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Instagram, @kirsty_reviews_books

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and look forward to future books from the author. I would highly recommend picking up a copy.

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Instagram, @historic_rabbithole

This was an interesting read. I knew stuff about The Suffragettes as most of us do, mostly the big names we’ve learnt about in school. So to read about Edith Rigby was quite fascinating.

She was a very strong willed woman and I’m glad to know she was fighting our corner so hard, and we now have the rights we do today. My daughter is eyeing this book up so I’m sure she’ll be having a flick through it too!

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Instagram, @dees_book_blog

As featured in Keighley News:

The Rebel Suffragette, focuses on the life of Edith Rigby. Edith established the Preston branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union and was a highly controversial figure. Convicted of arson and an attempted bomb attack in Liverpool, she was incarcerated and endured a hunger strike. And during a political rally, Edith threw a black pudding at an MP!

Diane Park, of Wave of Nostalgia, said she was delighted that the shop would be hosting Saturday’s event – on National Bookshop Day. “We promote inspirational women in our bookshop and Edith is a great example,” she added. “Beverley has written a fantastic book. Edith was such a champion."

Keighley News

There are the well-known faces of the UK's suffragette movement in the late 19th/early 20th centuries such as the Pankhursts, Emily Wilding Davison, & Annie Kenney, but there were many more women who campaigned beside them. One of them was Edith Rigby, controversial, spirited, opinionated, kind, compassionate, & loyal. Born in Preston, Edith founded the Preston branch of the Women's Social and Political Union, & was imprisoned & braved the hunger strikes to campaign for women to have the right to vote.

This was an informative read about a woman I had never heard of before. Edith was definitely a fascinating woman & was a vital part of the campaign. Apparently there is comparatively small amounts of evidence about her beliefs & works, therefore some of the chapters moved onto other related subjects, such as how the female members of the Royal Family felt about the suffrage movement, etc. It was also interesting to read a more detailed view on the men who supported women's suffrage, as they can sometimes be forgotten about. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Edith & her fellow suffragettes.

NetGalley, Gayle Noble

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A truly incredible book that tells the story of a suffragette: Edith. With insight, honesty, compassion, this is a really interesting book that is sure to be a hit for anyone interested in history.

NetGalley, Naomi Clarke

This is an interesting biography which tells the story of Edith Rigby sympathetically, but analyses the role of the militant suffragettes, and whether their acts of vandalism and violence were justified. Edith didn't want to just play the role of middle-class housewife, because she grew up amongst mill workers and the poor in Preston, even though she came from a well-off family, and she wanted to help them. She established a school for working-class girls, which was extremely popular, but the role of suffragette was made for her. Edith campaigned for the cause, but she felt that it wasn't getting anywhere, so she started committing violent acts. She committed arson, and she was found guilty of an attempted bomb attack in Liverpool. She also threw black pudding at an MP! She went to jail several times, enduring force feeding, and going on hunger strike.

Charles, Edith's husband, who was a well-respected doctor, supported her all through this, even writing letters about her plight to the papers. Although very long-suffering, he got a bit upset if he had trouble getting meals after a day at the surgery. Edith disappeared a few times for reasonably long periods, which he found difficult. At one stage, she worked as a maid at an upper-class house for a week!

This biography includes a chapter on the role of men who supported the cause. They have had short shrift before now, so I was pleased to see a discussion of their role. The book also includes a summary of women's rights until the present day.

I enjoyed this book. Although I don't agree with Edith's militancy, she seems to have been very likeable, and I liked learning about another suffragette.

NetGalley, Lisa Sanderson

I enjoy social history and I’m interested in the suffragette movement and how it’s shaped today’s society. Edith Rigby is one of the lesser known individuals and Beverly Adams research from seemingly very limited source material is amazing. Edith wanted more than domesticity and despite marrying a Doctor and perhaps enjoying the benefits of a more comfortable life, her own experiences and background drew her to the cause of women’s suffrage and she became actively involved.

NetGalley, Anita Wallas

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 MA in English in 2018 and her first book, The Rebel Suffragette: The Life of Edith Rigby, was published in September 2021. She is passionate about bringing the lives of inspirational women back to life. Her interests include history, in particular local history, reading and travel.

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