Mary Quaile Club event on 18 October 2014: Hannah Mitchell Day in A-u-L

Hannah Mitchell

Our sixth  Mary Quaile Club event took place in Ashton-under-Lyne and was a celebration  of the life and politics of  Hannah  Mitchell (1871 -1956).  Hannah  was a socialist and suffragette who lived in Bolton between 1900 and 1910 on Elizabeth Street. The  Day  was held in Topaz Cafe on Katherine Street and was well attended. It was chaired by Bernadette Hyland.


audience 1Our audience

We opened with a  song  England Arise,  sung by Jennifer Reid. This was written by the socialist Edward Carpenter and  was the unofficial anthem of the socialist movement in the early C20th.  Jennifer is a member of the Mary Quaile Club  and researches  and performs C19th ballads.

Michael Herbert   and Rachel Austin gave a joint presentation   about  Hannah as a socialist. Michael  explained how she became a socialist after reading The Clarion  newspaper  and hearing Katherine St John Conway speak.  He also talked about  Hannah role as an ILP  councillor in Manchester in the 1920s and 1930s.  Rachel illuminated the talk  by  reading  extracts from Hannah’s  autobiography The Hard Way Up.  Michael is a socialist historian  who teaches history and leads Red Flag Walks. Rachel is an actress who has  played Sophie Lancaster  in Black Roses   at the Royal  Exchange   and Jemima  Bamford in Manchester Sound: The Massacre for the Library  Theatre.

 Ciara speakingCiara  discussing Hannah and the WSPU

Ciara  O’Sullivan then  looked   at Hannah’s  role as a suffragette  in the militant campaign  for Votes for Women, led by Christabel  and Emmeline Pankhurst. Hannah knew the Pankhursts as  fellow socialists  and joined the WSPU in 1905. She was very active in the camapaign for two  years speaking at many  meetings up and down the country  but then suffered a nervous breakdown because of overwork. Shockingly the Pankhusts never contacted her. When she recovered Hannah joined the Women’s  Freedom League led by Charlotte Despard.  Ciara is a member of the Mary Quaile Club.

Christine Clayton  discussed the activites of the No Conscription Fellowship which  supported the men  who refused to fight in the First World War. Hannah’s son Frank appeared before a Military Tribunal and was granted exemption.  Conscientious objectors were often very badly treated in prisons and in work camps and 73 died. Hannah was involved in a number of anti-war meetings in Manchester.  Christine is a historical researcher  and volunteer at the Working Class Movement Library.

Rachel reading Hannah's storiesRachel reading Hannah’s stories

To round off the morning session Rachel read two  stories written by Hannah in strong Lancashire dialect which appeared in Labour’s Northern Voice in the 1930s.

At lunchtime we enjoyed an excellent vegetarian  buffet of sandwiches  and wraps.

Our afternoon session began with Eileen Murphy performing her monologue Hannah, written by her in 2001,  in which Hannah  talks about her life and political activity. After her performance Eileen explained how she came to write the play and answered questions.

Charlotte speakingCharlotte speaking

Our last  speaker was Charlotte Hughes who is campaigning in Ashton against benefits cuts  and assists   the unemployed with advice and support. She explained the constant  pressure that the unemployed were  under with sanctions being rountinely applied by the Job Centre. This  was followed by a discussion to which  many  in the audience contributed.

jennifer singingJennifer singing

We finished with another song, The March of the Women , the suffragette  anthem written by Ethel Smythe in 1910, again sung by Jennifer.

Our thanks to all our speakers  and contributors  and to Kevin and the staff at Topaz Cafe.


some useful links..

Charlotte Hughes’   blog The Poor Side of Life

No Conscription Fellowship archive at the Working Class Movement Library

England Arise! a play about being toured by Bent  Architect  theatre company  around the north. It will be at the Peoples History Museum on 14 and 15 November.


This  was   our final event for 2014.  We are currently planning events for 2015 and welcome suggestions as to possible speakers  and topics. Pleaae contact us  by email ;

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Posted in Feminism, Mary Quaile club meeting, women's history, working class history

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