Mrs Hannah Maria Mitchell

Gender: Female

Marital Status: Married

Born: 1871

Died: 1956

Place of birth: Hope Woodlands, Derbyshire, England

Main Suffrage Society: WFL

Other Societies: WSPU

Society Role: Organiser

Arrest Record: Yes

Recorded Entries: 1


Other sources:
Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866?1928 (1999); Hannah Mitchell, The Hard Way Up: The Autobiography of Hannah Mitchell, Suffragette and Rebel (1968)

Database linked sources:

Further Information:

Family information: Her father was a Chartist. She left home aged 14, after a violent argument with her mother. She married socialist Gibbon Mitchell. They had one child.

Additional Information: Hannah joined the WSPU in 1904?5 and started campaigning with them in and around Manchester. She had little formal education, but her thirst for knowledge led her to the socialist movement and to the Independent Labour Party (ILP). This political involvement also led her to her husband and to the WSPU (see Other Activities). When the latter offically moved its headquarters from Manchester to London in 1906, Hannah was often left in charge of affairs in the north. In 1906, she was thrown out of a Liberal Party meeting for shouting out about women's suffrage, and was sentenced to three days in prison for obstructing the police. She was released after one night when her husband paid a fine against her wishes. She worked tirelessly for the WSPU in the coming year, as well as taking part in a demonstration that led to her arrest. Hannah worked on a voluntary basis for the WSPU, but as a working class woman with a child, this was a physical and financial struggle. She became a part-time organiser in Oldham, for which the WSPU paid at least some money, but clearly not enough. She suffered a nervous breakdown from overwork and exhaustion, made worse by under-feeding. Charlotte Despard, who broke away from the WSPU in 1907 to form the Women's Freedom League (WFL), visited Hannah when she was ill and sent money to make sure that she could eat properly. Hannah herself broke away from the WSPU and joined the WFL during her illness ? deeply hurt that the WSPU leaders, the Pankhursts, whom she had worked so hard for, hadn't bothered to write, wish her well or ask after her health. Once recovered, she worked as an organiser for the WFL in Manchester but shortly afterwards decided, for the sake of her health, to end her suffrage work. Hannah is better remembered than most working class suffragettes because she wrote an autobiography about her experiences in the movement: The Hard Way Up: The Autobiography of Hannah Mitchell, Suffragette and Rebel (1968).

Other Suffrage Activities: Hannah became active in her local socialist group, which was tied to the Independent Labour Party (ILP). She became secretary of her local Labour church. She was nominated by the ILP in 1904 to the local Board of Guardians and was elected. She kept up her commitment to the ILP, working as a volunteer for them during the First World War. A pacifist, she also volunteered for the Women's International League and the No-Conscription Fellowship. After the war, she was elected through the ILP as a member of Manchester City Council and was a local Justice of the Peace for over 20 years. This was a remarkable achievement for a girl from such a poor background and with little education. As she said herself, few have attained what she achieved 'in the face of so many handicaps... ignorance, poverty and the disabilities of women in general'.

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