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Edith Rigby
Edith Rigby (1872–1948).JPG
Rigby in 1900
Born 18 October 1872
Preston, Lancashire, England
Died 1948
Llandudno, Wales
Education Penrhos College
Political party Labour Party
Spouse(s) Charles Rigby
Children 1

Edith Rigby (née Rayner) (18 October 1872 – 1948) was an English suffragette. She founded a school in Preston called St. Peter's School, aimed at educating women and girls. Later she became a prominent activist, and was incarcerated seven times and committed several acts of arson. She was a contemporary of Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst. On 5 February 2018, a meeting at Preston Town Hall instigated by the Mayoress of Preston Trisha Rollo, was called to investigate the possibility of erecting a statue of Edith Rigby in her hometown of Preston.


Born Edith Rayner on St Luke's Day (18 October) in 1872 in Preston, Lancashire, she was one of seven children of Dr Alexander Clement Rayner and was educated at Penrhos College in North Wales.[1] [2]

She married Dr. Charles Rigby and lived with him in Winckley Square in Preston. From an early age she questioned the differences between working-class and middle-class women and after she was married she worked hard to improve the lives of women and girls working in local mills. In 1899, she founded St Peter's School, which allowed these women to meet and continue their education which otherwise would have stopped at the age of 11.[3][4] At home, she was critical of her neighbours' treatment of their servants. The Rigbys had servants themselves, but allowed them certain unconventional freedoms such as being able to eat in the dining-room and not having to wear uniforms.[5]


In 1907 she formed the Preston branch of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).[6] Rigby was a suffragette recruiter gathering new members from amongst the local Labour Party including Eleanor Higginson who became a lifelong friend.[7] Rigby took part in a march to the Houses of Parliament in London with Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst in 1908. Fifty-seven women, including Rigby, were arrested and sentenced to a month in prison.[4] During this time (and her subsequent sentences, seven in total) Rigby took part in hunger strikes and was subjected to force-feeding.[4][5] Her activism included planting a bomb in the Liverpool Corn Exchange on 5 July 1913, and although it was later stated in court that ‘no great damage had been done by the explosion’, Mrs. Rigby was found guilty and sentenced to nine months' imprisonment with hard labour.[4][8][9]

She also claimed to have set fire to Lord Leverhulme's bungalow on the West Pennine Moors near Rivington Pike on 7 July 1913.[10][11]

The property contained a number of valuable paintings and the attack resulted in damage costing £20,000.[8] Afterwards she said:

I want to ask Sir William Lever whether he thinks his property on Rivington Pike is more valuable as one of his superfluous houses occasionally opened to people, or as a beacon lighted to King and Country to see here are some intolerable grievances for women.[5]

Rigby disagreed with the WSPU's decision not to campaign on suffrage issues during World War I. She joined the Independent Women's Social and Political Union split, forming a branch in Preston.[12]

Later life

Edith Rigby plaque in Preston.
Edith Rigby plaque in Preston.

According to Elizabeth Ashworth in Champion Lancastrians, Rigby was the first lady to ride a bicycle in Preston.[4] During World War I, she bought a cottage near Preston named Marigold Cottage and used it to produce food for the war effort.[5] With short hair and wearing men's clothes, she grew fruit and vegetables and kept animals and bees, following the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.[4] She had a happy marriage with her husband, who retired and lived with her at her cottage.[4] They adopted a son called Sandy.[4] In the 1920s Rigby was a founding member and the president of the Hutton and Howick Women's Institute.[5]

In 1926, shortly after the death of her husband, Rigby moved to North Wales.[4] She continued to follow Steiner's work, forming an "Anthroposophical Circle" of her own, and visiting one of his schools in New York.[4] Into old age she enjoyed a healthy lifestyle, bathing in the sea, fell walking and meditating in the early hours of every morning.[4] She eventually suffered from Parkinson's disease and died in 1950 near Llandudno, Wales.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Crawford, Elizabeth (2001). The Women's Suffrage Movement: a reference guide, 1866–1928. Routledge. pp. 598–599. ISBN 0-415-23926-5.
  2. ^ Hesketh, Phoebe (1992). My Aunt Edith, The Story of a Preston Suffragette. Preston: Lancashire County Books. pp. 1–13. ISBN 1-871236-12-6.
  3. ^ Roberts, Marian. "Biography of Mrs Edith Rigby". Retrieved 31 May 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ashworth, Elizabeth (2006). Champion Lancastrians. Sigma Leisure. pp. 79–82. ISBN 1-85058-833-3.
  5. ^ a b c d e Oldfield, Sybil (1994). This Working-day World: women's lives and culture(s) in Britain, 1914–1945. Taylor & Francis. p. 29. ISBN 0-7484-0108-3.
  6. ^ "Avenham Walks – Stop 7 – Edith Rigby". Avenham Walks. Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
  7. ^ Brown, H. (2004-09-23). Higginson [née Ellis], Eleanor Beatrice (1881–1969), suffragette. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 29 Nov. 2017, from
  8. ^ a b Mrs Rigby committed to trial, The Times, 18 July 1913, page 14, column c.
  9. ^ ‘The Explosion At Liverpool Exchange’, The Times, 31st July 1913, p. 8.
  10. ^ "A Desperate Woman. Suffragette Confesses to Deeds of Violence, Says She Fired Sir W. Lever's Bungalow". British Library. The British Newspaper Archive. 10 July 1913. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  11. ^ Rivington Bungalow Fire, Confession by a Doctor’s Wife’, Bolton Evening News, 13th July 1913, p. 4
  12. ^ Smith, Harold L. (2009). The British Women's Suffrage Campaign 1866-1928. Routledge. p. 80. ISBN 978-1408228234.

External links

This page was last edited on 8 October 2018, at 21:11
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