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Anne Knight
Anne Knight feminist.png
"By tortured millions, By the divine redeemer, Enfranchise Humanity, Bid the Outraged World, BE FREE"
Born 2 November, 1786
Died 4 November, 1862
Nationality United Kingdom

Anne Knight (2 November 1786 – 4 November 1862)[1] was a social reformer, abolitionist and a pioneer of feminism. She was at the 1840 Anti-Slavery convention where the need to improve women's rights became obvious.[1] In 1847 Knight produced what is considered the first leaflet for women's suffrage. She formed the first UK women's suffrage organisation in Sheffield in 1851.

Family background

Anne Knight was born in Chelmsford in 1786. She the daughter of William Knight (1756–1814), a Chelmsford grocer, and his wife Priscilla Allen (1753-1829). Her parent's families were both Quakers and several of their members took an active part in the temperance and anti-slavery movements.[1]

Early efforts and frustrations

In 1825 she was a member of the Chelmsford Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society when she toured Europe with a group of Quakers. The tour was part sightseeing but also took in good causes. Knight could speak in both French and German.[1]

Knight worked closely with other leading abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, Elizabeth Pease and Joseph Sturge.

Isaac Crewdson (Beaconite) writer Samuel Jackman Prescod - Barbadian Journalist William Morgan from Birmingham William Forster - Quaker leader George Stacey - Quaker leader William Forster - Anti-Slavery ambassador John Burnet -Abolitionist Speaker William Knibb -Missionary to Jamaica Joseph Ketley from Guyana George Thompson - UK & US abolitionist J. Harfield Tredgold - British South African (secretary) Josiah Forster - Quaker leader Samuel Gurney - the Banker's Banker Sir John Eardley-Wilmot Dr Stephen Lushington - MP and Judge Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton James Gillespie Birney - American John Beaumont George Bradburn - Massachusetts politician George William Alexander - Banker and Treasurer Benjamin Godwin - Baptist activist Vice Admiral Moorson William Taylor William Taylor John Morrison GK Prince Josiah Conder Joseph Soul James Dean (abolitionist) John Keep - Ohio fund raiser Joseph Eaton Joseph Sturge - Organiser from Birmingham James Whitehorne Joseph Marriage George Bennett Richard Allen Stafford Allen William Leatham, banker William Beaumont Sir Edward Baines - Journalist Samuel Lucas Francis August Cox Abraham Beaumont Samuel Fox, Nottingham grocer Louis Celeste Lecesne Jonathan Backhouse Samuel Bowly William Dawes - Ohio fund raiser Robert Kaye Greville - Botanist Joseph Pease, railway pioneer W.T.Blair M.M. Isambert (sic) Mary Clarkson -Thomas Clarkson's daughter in law William Tatum Saxe Bannister - Pamphleteer Richard Davis Webb - Irish Nathaniel Colver - American not known John Cropper - Most generous Liverpudlian Thomas Scales William James William Wilson Thomas Swan Edward Steane from Camberwell William Brock Edward Baldwin Jonathon Miller Capt. Charles Stuart from Jamaica Sir John Jeremie - Judge Charles Stovel - Baptist Richard Peek, ex-Sheriff of London John Sturge Elon Galusha Cyrus Pitt Grosvenor Rev. Isaac Bass Henry Sterry Peter Clare -; sec. of Literary & Phil. Soc. Manchester J.H. Johnson Thomas Price Joseph Reynolds Samuel Wheeler William Boultbee Daniel O'Connell - "The Liberator" William Fairbank John Woodmark William Smeal from Glasgow James Carlile - Irish Minister and educationalist Rev. Dr. Thomas Binney Edward Barrett - Freed slave John Howard Hinton - Baptist minister John Angell James - clergyman Joseph Cooper Dr. Richard Robert Madden - Irish Thomas Bulley Isaac Hodgson Edward Smith Sir John Bowring - diplomat and linguist John Ellis C. Edwards Lester - American writer Tapper Cadbury - Businessman not known Thomas Pinches David Turnbull - Cuban link Edward Adey Richard Barrett John Steer Henry Tuckett James Mott - American on honeymoon Robert Forster (brother of William and Josiah) Richard Rathbone John Birt Wendell Phillips - American M. L'Instant from Haiti Henry Stanton - American Prof William Adam Mrs Elizabeth Tredgold - British South African T.M. McDonnell Mrs John Beaumont Anne Knight - Feminist Elizabeth Pease - Suffragist Jacob Post - Religious writer Anne Isabella, Lady Byron - mathematician and estranged wife Amelia Opie - Novelist and poet Mrs Rawson - Sheffield campaigner Thomas Clarkson's grandson Thomas Clarkson Thomas Morgan Thomas Clarkson - main speaker George Head Head - Banker from Carlisle William Allen John Scoble Henry Beckford - emancipated slave and abolitionist Use your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge)
Knight is to the far right of this painting of the 1840 Anti-Slavery Convention. Her grandfather, William Allen, is in the left foreground. Move your cursor to identify them or click the icon to enlarge

When women were prevented from participating in the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, Knight was outraged, and started to campaign for women's rights. A few women were included in the painting of the convention with Knight; these were Elizabeth Pease, Amelia Opie, Baroness Byron, Mary Anne Rawson, Mrs John Beaumont, Elizabeth Tredgold, Thomas Clarkson's daughter-in-law and niece Mary and right at the back Lucretia Mott.[2]

In 1847 Knight produced what is considered the first leaflet for women's suffrage. Her efforts to impress the importance of women's suffrage on such reform leaders as Henry Brougham and Richard Cobden proved of little use, as did her efforts with the Chartist leadership.[1]

Knight was described by the American Quaker Lucretia Mott in the 1840s as "a singular looking woman - very pleasant and polite."[3]

Move to France

She moved to France in 1846 and participated in the revolution of 1848, and attended the international peace conference in Paris in 1849. With Jeanne Deroin she challenged the banning of women from political clubs and of publication of feminist material. In 1851, she worked with Anne Kent to form the Sheffield Female Political Association, the first British organisation to call for women's suffrage.[1]

Death and commemorations

Anne Knight never married. She died at Waldersbach, near Strasbourg, France, on 4 November 1862, at the house of the grandson of Jean-Frédéric Oberlin (1740–1820), a philanthropist whose work she revered.

A village, Knightsville in Jamaica, was named after her, or possibly after her younger sister Maria (1791–1870), who visited the West Indies in the mid-1810s with the abolitionist John Candler (1787–1869).

Some of the new student accommodation at the University of Essex, Anne Knight House, is named after her. So also is Anne Knight House, opened in January 2005 by the Colchester Quaker Housing Association a hostel for young people. A Grade II listed building opposite the railway station in Chelmsford, her birthplace, used as a Quaker Meeting House from 1823 until the 1950s, was named Anne Knight Building in her honour. It formed part of the Anglia Ruskin University central campus until this was relocated in 2008. The building was subsequently vacant until 2015 when it enjoyed a brief period of use as a cultural project before being turned into a family-owned chain restaurant.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Edward H. Milligan: Knight, Anne (1786–1862). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004) Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  2. ^ The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, accessed 19 July 2008
  3. ^ Edward H. Milligan: Knight, Anne (1786–1862).... Quoting F. B. Tolles, ed.: Slavery and 'the Woman Question' (London: Journal of the Friends Historical Society Supplement, 1952), p. 29.
This page was last edited on 30 January 2018, at 15:41.
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