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Hannah Mitchell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hannah Mitchell
Hannah Mitchell suffragette and socialist.jpg
Born 11 February 1872
Hope Woodlands
Died 22 October 1956
Nationality United Kingdom
Occupation dressmaker
Known for Suffragette and councillor
Political party Independent Labour Party
Spouse(s) Gibbon Mitchell
Children son

Hannah Mitchell (born Hannah Maria Webster; 1872–1956) was an English suffragette and socialist.[1] Born into a poor farming family in Derbyshire, Mitchell left home at a young age to work as a seamstress in Bolton, where she became involved in the socialist movement. She worked for many years in organisations related to socialism, women's suffrage and pacifism. After the First World War she was elected to Manchester City Council and worked as a magistrate, before later working for Labour Party leader, Keir Hardie.


Early life

Her birthplace was at Alport Castles Farm
Her birthplace was at Alport Castles Farm

Hannah Webster was born on 11 February 1872 in a farmhouse named after and just below Alport Castles[2] in Hope Woodlands, in the Derbyshire Peak District.[3] The daughter of a farmer, she was the fourth of six children.[4] She was not permitted a formal education, although her father taught her to read.[5] She stayed at home performing domestic duties with her mother, with whom she did not get on.[6] She was expected to look after her father and brothers, which she resented.[7] Early on she became acutely aware of gender inequality in the domestic sphere. She also observed the seemingly inevitable early marriages of girls around her to "farm lads", to avoid having children out of wedlock, and was keen to avoid the same fate.[8] She later said in her autobiography that her mother was a bad-tempered and violent woman who sometimes made her children sleep in the barn.[9] When she was 13 she became an apprentice dressmaker, to earn extra money for her impoverished family.[10] At the age of 14, after an argument with her mother, she left home and went to live in Bolton, Lancashire, where she found work as a dressmaker and in domestic service.[11][12]

Marriage and socialism

In Bolton, Mitchell started improving her education, originally hoping to become a teacher.[13] One job she had was in the household of a schoolmaster, who allowed her to borrow his books.[14] She became involved in the socialist movement and attended The Labour Church.[15][16] She was particularly influenced by Robert Blatchford's newspaper The Clarion.[17] At one meeting she attended, she heard Katharine Glasier speak.[18] In the house where she lodged, she met a tailor's cutter called Gibbon Mitchell.[19] Although she was cautious about marriage, from her observations of her family members, the young couple both longed for their own home.[20] They married in 1895 and she gave birth to a son.[21] Because of the difficulty of this birth and the reluctance to bring more children into poverty, Mitchell resolved to have no more.[22] She and her husband agreed to use birth control and had no further children.[23] As well as their son, the Mitchells also cared for an orphaned niece.[24]

She soon found herself disillusioned by marriage. Although her husband initially agreed to her requests for an equal division of labour in their household, she found that reality did not quite live up to this ideal. She continued to work as a seamstress to supplement Gibbon's meagre earnings, and found the rest of her time taken up with household chores.[25] Like other women in the socialist movement, Mitchell struggled to convince male socialists of the importance of feminist issues.[26]

Mitchell began to speak publicly at meetings of the Independent Labour Party (ILP).[27] She joined, and worked as a part-time organiser for, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).[28] She toured the country making speeches, and campaigned for women's suffrage at by-elections.[29] In 1907 she suffered a nervous breakdown which her doctor put down to overwork and malnourishment.[30] While she was recovering, Charlotte Despard visited her and gave her money for food.[31] In her autobiography she mentioned the hurt that she felt when none of the Pankhursts contacted her during her recovery.[32] In 1908 she left the WSPU, and joined Despard's new Women's Freedom League.[33]

During the First World War, Mitchell supported the pacifist movement volunteering for organisations such as the ILP No Conscription Fellowship and the Women's International League.[34] In 1918 she started to work with the ILP again and in 1924 they nominated her as a member of Manchester City Council.[35][36] She was elected and served until 1935.[37] She became a magistrate in 1926, and for the next 11 years.[38]

Later life

On 9 May 1939, Mitchell helped to organise a meeting of 40 ex-suffragettes in Manchester.[39] Towards the end of the Second World War, she began work on her autobiography, which remained unpublished in her lifetime.[40] After the war, she began writing for The Northern Voice and Manchester City News.[41] Mitchell died on 22 October 1956 at home in Manchester.[42] Her autobiography, The Hard Way Up, the Autobiography of Hannah Mitchell, Suffragette and Rebel, was edited by her grandson and published in 1968.[43] There is a blue plaque dedicated to her on the wall of the house that she lived in with her family in Ashton-under-Lyne between 1900 and 1910.[44] In the latter years of her life, Hannah lived in Newton Heath until her death in 1956. There is also a blue plaque on the house in Ingham Street, Newton Heath dedicated to her. It is at 18 Ingham Street, where she lived and wrote her autobiography "The Hard Way".

Hannah Mitchell Foundation

2012 saw the formation of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, a forum for the development of devolved government in the North of England. The name was chosen "in memory of an outstanding Northern socialist, feminist and co-operator who was proud of her working class roots and had a cultural as well as political vision."[45]


  1. ^ Routledge, p. 317
  2. ^ Alport Castles, Peakland Heritage. Retrieved 16 October 2015
  3. ^ Purvis
  4. ^ Rosen, p. 39
  5. ^ Purvis
  6. ^ Rappaport, p.447
  7. ^ Rowbotham, p.91
  8. ^ Stanley Holton, p. 94
  9. ^ Perkin, p.115
  10. ^ Rosen, p.40
  11. ^ Purvis
  12. ^ Rappaport, p.447
  13. ^ Stanley Holton, p. 94
  14. ^ Stanley Holton, p. 95
  15. ^ Purvis
  16. ^ Rappaport, p.447
  17. ^ Routledge, p. 317
  18. ^ Rowbotham, p.92
  19. ^ Rosen, p.40
  20. ^ Rosen, p.40
  21. ^ Stanley Holton, p. 93
  22. ^ Rosen, p. 41
  23. ^ Rappaport, p.447
  24. ^ Crawford, p. 416
  25. ^ Rosen, p.41
  26. ^ Rowbotham, p.92
  27. ^ Purvis
  28. ^ Purvis
  29. ^ Crawford, p. 417
  30. ^ Crawford, p. 417
  31. ^ Crawford, p. 417
  32. ^ Purvis
  33. ^ Purvis
  34. ^ Crawford, p. 417
  35. ^ Routledge, p. 318
  36. ^ Crawford, p. 417
  37. ^ Purvis
  38. ^ Purvis
  39. ^ Purvis
  40. ^ Purvis
  41. ^ Routledge, p. 318
  42. ^ Purvis
  43. ^ Purvis
  44. ^ "Blue Plaque – Hannah Maria Mitchell". Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council. Retrieved 3 September 2009.
  45. ^ "The Hannah Mitchell Foundation". Retrieved 17 March 2012.


This page was last edited on 19 March 2018, at 22:37
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