Edith Rigby

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Edith Rigby
Rigby in 1900
Born18 October 1872
Died23 July 1950 (1950-07-24) (aged 77)
EducationPenrhos College
Political partyLabour Party
Spouse(s)Charles Rigby

Edith Rigby (née Rayner) (18 October 1872 – 23 July 1950) was an English suffragette. She wanted women in Britain to have the right to vote. She founded a night school in Preston. It was called St Peter's School and its aim was to educate women and girls. Later, she became an important activist. She was sent to prison seven times and committed several acts of arson (illegally setting things on fire).

Biography[change | change source]

Rigby was born on 18 October 1872 in Preston, Lancashire. She was one of seven children of Dr Alexander Clement Rayner and she was educated at Penrhos College in North Wales.[1][2]

She married Dr Charles Rigby and lived with him in Winckley Square in Preston.

Activism[change | change source]

In 1907 Rigby formed the Preston branch of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).[3] She was a suffragette recruiter.[4] 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.[5] During this time, Rigby took part in hunger strikes and was force-fed.[5][6] Rigby planted a bomb in the Liverpool Corn Exchange on 5 July 1913. In court, it was stated that ‘no great damage had been done by the explosion’. Mrs Rigby was sent to prison for nine months with hard labour.[5][7][8]

Rigby had been given a Hunger Strike Medal 'for Valour' by WSPU.

She said she set fire to the bungalow of Sir William Lever, Bt (later Lord Leverhulme) on 7 July 1913.[9][10] The property, near Rivington Pike on the West Pennine Moors, had a lot of valuable paintings and the attack resulted in damage costing £20,000.[7] After 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.[6]

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.[11]

Later life[change | change source]

Edith Rigby's house in Preston
Edith Rigby plaque in Winckley Square, Preston, featuring incorrect year of death[4]

According to Elizabeth Ashworth in Champion Lancastrians, in 1888, Rigby was the first woman in Preston to own a bicycle.[5] During World War I, she bought a cottage near Preston named Marigold Cottage and used it to produce food for the war effort.[6]

In 1926, Charles Rigby retired and the couple built a new house. It was called Erdmuth and it was located outside Llanrhos, North Wales. Charles died before it was finished, however, and Edith moved there alone at the end of 1926.[12][5][4] She eventually suffered from Parkinson's disease and died in 1950 at Erdmuth.[12][5]

References[change | change source]

  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. "Avenham Walks – Stop 7 – Edith Rigby". Avenham Walks. Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gilroy Wilkinson, Peter. "Edith Rigby: the later years" (PDF). Prestonhistoricalsociety.org.uk. Preston Historical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 December 2022. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Ashworth, Elizabeth (2006). Champion Lancastrians. Sigma Leisure. pp. 79–82. ISBN 1-85058-833-3.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 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.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mrs Rigby committed to trial, The Times, 18 July 1913, page 14, column c.
  8. ‘The Explosion At Liverpool Exchange’, The Times, 31 July 1913, p. 8.
  9. "A Desperate Woman. Suffragette Confesses to Deeds of Violence, Says She Fired Sir W. Lever's Bungalow". The Nottingham Evening Post. 10 July 1913. p. 5. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  10. Rivington Bungalow Fire, Confession by a Doctor’s Wife’, Bolton Evening News, 13 July 1913, p. 4
  11. Smith, Harold L. (2009). The British Women's Suffrage Campaign 1866-1928. Routledge. p. 80. ISBN 978-1408228234.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Brown, Heloise. "Rigby [née Rayner], Edith". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/50080. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)