The Kenney Papers

Scope and Content

The collection is extremely fragmentary, and the greater part consists of Jessie Kenney's papers. A great deal of background information is contained in correspondence between the Archives Department and Warwick Kenney-Taylor and Beatrice and Dorothy Clarke, material which is outwith the collection itself.

Series KP/AK consists of nine files:

  • KP/AK/1 Personal Papers, 1889, 1915-1916, 1918-19, 1921, 1953
  • KP/AK/2 Correspondence, 1908-1954
  • KP/AK/3 Writings, 1924-1948
  • KP/AK/4 Miscellaneous papers etc, 190-, 1921-1946
  • KP/AK/5 Films; Radio and TV programmes, 1944-46, 1951, 1974
  • KP/AK/6 Death of Anne Kenney, 1953
  • KP/AK/7 Unveiling of Commemorative Plaque in Manchester Free Trade Hall, 1959-1960
  • KP/AK/8 News-cuttings, 1918
  • KP/AK/9 Photographs

The personal papers include Annie Kenney's birth certificate; marriage certificate; and two passports, issued in 1915 and 1916 respectively. The marriage certificate is an elaborate affair and is kept in separate storage for large format documents. There are also official documents and letters of introduction relating to the periods of her residence in Paris, 1916-1919.

There are at present 31 files of correspondence in File KP/AK/2, the most significant of which are those relating to the Blathwayt family; Lady Constance Lytton and her mother Edith, Dowager Countess of Lytton; Christabel Pankhurst; and Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence.

The file of Annie Kenney's writings contains drafts and proofs of Memories of a Militant ; drafts of All Our Yesterdays , an unpublished historico-philosophical work; and drafts of miscellaneous unpublished pieces.

File KP/AK/3 includes a commonplace book; a quantity of suffragette memorabilia; and pages torn from a 1946 pocket diary which include brief notes relating to key events of earlier years.

File KP/AK/5 is large and relates to Annie Kenney's reaction to various projects dramatising the women's movement, notably a projected film scripted by Jill Craigie, 1944-46; a radio play The Women's Rebellion , 1951, also scripted by Jill Craigie, to which Annie took exception; and a TV programme, The Suffragette , 1951. There is also printed ephemera relating to the TV series Shoulder to Shoulder , 1974.

File KP/AK/6 includes letters of condolence to James Taylor and Warwick Kenney-Taylor; obituaries; and a collection of photographs of the scattering of Annie Kenney's ashes on Saddleworth Moor.

The newscuttings are few in number and contained in a hardbound exercise book. They date from 1918 and relate chiefly to the Trades Union Congress Conference in Derby, 1918, and the visit of David Lloyd George to Manchester to receive the freedom of the city in the same year.

Series KP/CK consists at present of one file. It includes photographs of Jane Kenney in Rome, 1914, two of which also feature Maria Montessori; printed ephemera relating to the opening of the Tower Cressy school; correspondence relating to the Lenox School; and a copy of the Lenox School's annual The Lantern , volume 2, 1929.

Series KP/CLA is still being organised and listed. It includes a copy of Nell Kenney's birth certificate; an MS family tree; correspondence between Nell and Frank Kenney and Annie Kenney; and photographs of various members of the Clarke family.

Series KP/JK contains nine files:

  • KP/JK/1 Personal papers
  • KP/JK/2 Diaries, 1929, 1952, 1957
  • KP/JK/3 Correspondence
  • KP/JK/4 Writings, 1917-1966
  • KP/JK/5 Career, and related, 1936-1956
  • KP/JK/6 The Rosicrucian Order, 1931-1967
  • KP/JK/7 News-cuttings, 1917-1977
  • KP/JK/8 Interview of Jessie Kenney by Barbara Morgan, 1984?
  • KP/JK/9 Photographs

Among the personal papers is Jessie Kenney's passport for 1917 and a small autograph album containing the signatures of a number of suffragettes, and a small card to which is attached a triangular piece of green, white and purple striped satin that was, according to the annotation, cut from a sash or banner worn by Emily Wilding Davison on May 25th, 1913 (Derby Day).

There are at present 73 files of correspondence in File KP/JK/3, none of them very large. There is further correspondence here with Constance and Edith Lytton, the Pethick-Lawrences, and Christable Pankhurst, but much of the content dates from the 1960s and relates to the gathering of information by Jessie for an autobiography.

The most notable material in this series is in File KP/JK/4 and relates to Jessie's sojourn in Russia between June and September 1917. Included is her original diary; drafts of an edited text intended for publication; correspondence and visiting cards; and newscuttings and printed ephemera collected during the visit. The miscellaneous publications are some 20 draft articles believed to have been written in the late 1940s, and one published piece Clapham has an air , printed in the London Evening News, 10th July, 1945. In some cases these pieces have been typed on the versos of items of correspondence that themselves shed light on Jessie Kenney's life and career.

File KP/JK/5 consists largely of printed matter, most of it dating from 1936-1938.

The file of news-cuttings, KP/JK/7, is quite voluminous and wide-ranging.

File KP/JK/8 consists of a typescript of an interview of Jessie Kenney conducted at St Francis' Nursing Home, Braintree by Barbara Morgan of Toddington, Bedfordshire, for a school project. According to the text Ms Morgan conducted a second interview which was tape-recorded.

Series KP/JT contains nine files:

  • KP/JT/1 Family background (deeds, wills, etc), 1874-1965
  • KP/JT/2 Personal papers, 1918-1954
  • KP/JT/3 Notes on first meeting with Anne Kenney, marriage, etc
  • KP/JT/4 Career, 1930-1958, 1977
  • KP/JT/5 Musical interests
  • KP/JT/6 World War 2: ARP activities
  • KP/JT/7 Tour of Europe, 1957
  • KP/JT/8 Miscellaneous papers
  • KP/JT/9 Photographs

File KP/JT/1 contains a number of legal documents shedding light on James Taylor's antecedents. File KP/JT/2 includes a copy of his birth certificate and a curriculum vitae. The MS notes in File KP/JT/3 shed light on the period after 1918 when Annie Kenney disappeared from view. File KP/JT/5 is slight but includes correspondence from 1921 relating to a trip to Italy that James Taylor made with a view to studying singing with Enrico Caruso. The singer's sudden death threw these plans into disarray and James Taylor returned to England and, apparently, abandoned the idea of a musical career.

Series KP/PHO contains photographic material that does not fit readily into other series. It is believed that most of the contents belonged to Annie Kenney. Included are photographs of members of the Blathwayt family; the Pethick-Lawrences; Christabel Pankhurst; Emmeline Pankhurst; Flora Drummond; and Constance Lytton. There is also a signed photograph of Sybil Thorndike in the role of St Joan.

Series KP/PUBS consists of two files: Periodicals, and Pamphlets; and Ephemera. The periodicals comprise bound volumes of Votes for Women , 1907-1910, and unbound and incomplete runs of The Suffragette , 1913, 1915, and Britannia , 1915-1918. There is a small number of issues of Calling All Women , 1948-1971.

The file of pamphlets and ephemera is another that contains material not readily placed elsewhere. Its contents include copies of a Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners, 1905-1914; Memories of Charlotte Marsh , Suffragette Fellowship , 1961; Manifesto to the Women's Social and Political Union [from the women of the Independent Labour Party]; No Peace without Victory! , by Christabel Pankhurst, WSPU, 1917; and a pamphlet on industrial relations, issued by the Women's Party, 1918 and with an introduction by Christabel Pankhurst, that is minus its front cover.

Series KP/SWH consists of a small file of news-cuttings, 1920-1966, relating to the Kenney family. They include a report of Annie Kenney's marriage, 1920, and the installation in Oldham's shopping precinct of a plaque commemorating her life.

Series KP/WKT includes correspondence of Warwick Kenney-Taylor and his first wife, Joan, with other members of the family, and some photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ann (Annie) Kenney (1879-1953) and all but two of her siblings were born at Springhead, Yorkshire. At the age of 10 Annie started work as a cotton-mill operative. In 1905 she was recruited to the cause of women's suffrage after hearing Mrs Pankhurst and her daughters addressing an open-air meeting in Manchester, and on 13th October 1905 she accompanied Christabel Pankhurst to an election meeting in Manchester Free Trade Hall. The pair heckled the speaker, Sir Edward Grey, were evicted, and conducted an impromptu meeting in the street. They were arrested and imprisoned, Ann for three days, Christabel for seven. Thereafter Annie Kenney was a leading figure in the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), the organisation founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903.

Annie supported Christabel Pankhurst's policy of militant action, served several terms in prison, went on hunger and thirst strike, and endured forcible feeding. After the imprisonment of Emmeline Pankhurst and other WSPU leaders in 1912, and Christabel's escape to France, Annie took over the London end of the organization of the WSPU. At the outbreak of World War I and the suspension of militant action by the WSPU, Annie was an active supporter of the government and in particular its policy of mobilising women.

When limited suffrage was extended to women in 1918, Annie withdrew almost entirely from active politics; she was physically and mentally exhausted. While recuperating in Scotland in August 1918, she met James Taylor, whom she married in April 1920. For most of the period 1918-1920 she was occupied with writing of her own account of her life as a suffragette, published as Memories of a Militant in 1924. In February 1921 Annie gave birth to her only child, a son, Warwick Kenney-Taylor. In 1923 the Taylor family moved from London to Letchworth.

In October 1932 Annie developed what she described as my serious illness [diabetes] and thereafter did not enjoy good health. In 1953 she suffered a stroke and died on July 9th. Her ashes were scattered on Saddleworth Moor.

Jessica (Jessie) Kenney (1887-1975?) was Annie Kenney's younger sister; her career largely mirrored that of Annie until 1918. She had a gift for organization and was for a time Secretary of the WSPU. She worked alongside Christabel Pankhurst in Paris from 1912, assisting Christabel in the long-range direction of WSPU operations. In 1917 she accompanied Emmeline Pankhurst to Russia, on behalf of the British government. Their particular objective was to promote the mobilisation of Russian women in the war effort. Jessie was in Russia for some three months and made a detailed record of events which she later prepared for publication under the title The Price of Liberty ; the work was never published.

By 1920 Jessie, too, had withdrawn from active political campaigning, and trained as a wireless telegraph (W/T) operator. It was her ambition to work as a W/T operator on board ship, but she was thwarted in this aim and settled for work as a stewardess. During the 1930s she worked variously for the Furness and Orient lines. Aboard ship she read voraciously, and began to write. On the outbreak of World War II she was obliged to remain in Britain, vacating her London flat in 1940 to reside temporarily with her sister Annie and James Taylor in Letchworth. After the war, and unsuccessful in her efforts to follow a career as a writer, she worked as a school secretary and welfare assistant. After her retirement she remained in London until 1965, when failing health precluded further independent living. She spent her last years in St Francis' Nursing Home, Braintree, where she was cared for by the Missionary Franciscan Sisters.

Caroline Kenney (1880-1952) and Jane (Jenny) Kenney (1884-?) were sisters of Annie and Jessie Kenney. They too were suffragettes, and appear to have played a supporting role, providing a refuge for women on the run or temporarily released from prison under the Cat and Mouse Act at their Tower Cressy premises.

Caroline, like her older sisters, began her working life as a child operative in the cotton mills. Subsequently she followed the example of her younger sister Jane and trained as a Montessori teacher. Jane studied in Rome with Maria Montessori in 1914 and then became Madame Montessori's appointed demonstrator in England. She and Caroline established their own Montessori school at Tower Cressy, Campden Hill, circa 1915. In 1916 they left England for the United States and were appointed joint teachers in charge of the newly-established Lenox School, New York. They retired as joint principals in 1929, and then settled in California.

James (Jim) Taylor (1893-1977?) was born in St Pancras, the son of a solicitor's clerk. He married Annie Kenney in April 1920. Between 1907 and 1914 he worked for various employers chiefly as a metalworker or pipefitter. In 1914 he enlisted in the King's Royal Rifles, rising to the rank of sergeant, then in 1916 he was despatched to the Royal Naval Torpedo Factory, Greenock, where he worked as a tinman until demobilisation in 1918. It was while working in Greenock that he met Annie Kenney. Between 1918 and 1930 he returned to metal-working and related trades. In 1923, he and Annie removed to Letchworth, where he was appointed maintenance engineer at St Christopher's School. There he undertook some part-time teaching of handicraft. Following periods of similar work elsewhere, he was appointed an instructor in the Government Training Service in 1930. He rose to become Assistant Manager of the Service's Letchworth training centre and retired in 1958, whereupon he embarked on an extended tour of Europe by moped. James Taylor had a fine singing voice and at one time had aspirations to a musical career. He was active in the community in Letchworth, in particular in local music and drama groups.

The Clarke family, of Montreal, is the family of Sarah Ellen (Nell) Kenney (1876-1953). Nell was the elder sister of Annie, Jessie, Caroline, and Jane Kenney and was born in Lees, Lancashire. Like her siters Annie and Mollie (Mary) she was put to work in the cotton mills at an early age. She married Frank Randall Clarke (1872-1955) and they settled in Montreal, where Frank was active in schemes to assist the training and employment of the disabled. A quantity of documents and information supplied by Nell's daughters Beatrice (b. 1910) and Dorothy (b. 1911), which sheds much light on the Kenney and Clarke families, is still being studied.

Sylvia Williams Hale is the grand-daughter of Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Kenney (1874 -?), the eldest of the Kenney sisters and, like Nell, born in Lees. Also like Nell, she began her working life in the cotton mills while still a child. She married George Dixon, and like her sisters Caroline and Jane became resident in the United States.

We are indebted to Warwick Kenney-Taylor, Sylvia Williams Hale and Beatrice and Dorothy Clarke for the genealogical, biographical, and historical information that they have supplied.


  • KP/AK Anne Kenney, 1889-1974
  • KP/CK Caroline and Jane Kenney, 1914-1929
  • KP/CLA Clarke Family, of Montreal, 1876 - ? [sorting and listing still in progress]
  • KP/JK Jessie Kenney. 1906-1977
  • KP/JT James Taylor, 1874-1977
  • KP/PHO Miscellaneous Photographs
  • KP/PUBS Suffragette Publications, 1907-1971
  • KP/SWH Sylvia Williams Hale, 1920-1966
  • KP/WKT Warwick and Joan Kenney-Taylor

Access Information

The collection is open for consultation in the Archives Department during its advertised opening hours.



Conditions Governing Use

Reproductions can be supplied in hard copy or digital format subject to physical condition and the terms of deposit. A charge is made for this service. Copyright restrictions may apply and the advice of the Archives department should be sought for any use of reproductions other than personal research.

Custodial History

The main body of papers in this collection was transferred to the Archives Department of the University Library, University of East Anglia, in November 1993. The deposit was formally gifted to the University of East Anglia by Mr Warwick Kenney-Taylor, son of Mrs Ann Taylor (Annie Kenney), in January 1994. This first deposit contained the majority of the surviving papers of Annie Kenney, her husband, James Taylor, and her younger sister Jessie, that were in the hands of the Kenney-Taylor family. Mr Kenney-Taylor has subsequently deposited with the collection additional material that has come to light. He has also been active in tracing surviving papers in the possession of other members of his mother's family or elsewhere, some of which have been deposited in this collection.

On 10th August 1995 the first tranche of material was received from the daughters of Nell Clarke (ne Ellen Kenney), Beatrice and Dorothy Clarke.

In August 1996 Sylvia Williams Hale, grand-daughter of Mary Dixon (ne Kenney), deposited a small collection of news-cuttings.

In June 1997 the collection received from the Convent of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters [St Francis' Nursing Home], Braintree, additional papers of Jessie Kenney, including a complete typescript of The Price of Liberty .

Related Material

Ann Kenney: Memories of a Militant , London, Edward Arnold & Co., 1924.