Edith Rigby

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Edith Rigby (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.


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.[6] Also in this year, she took part in a march to the Houses of Parliament in London with Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst. 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 pipe bomb in the Liverpool Corn Exchange on 5 July 1913 and on 7 July 1913 setting fire to Lord Leverhulme's bungalow at Rivington Pike.[4] The property contained a number of valuable paintings and the attack resulted in damage costing £20,000.[7] Afterwards she said:

Later life

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 1948 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Hesketh, Phoebe (1966) My Aunt Edith. London: Peter Davies; p. 2
  3. Roberts, Marian. "Biography of Mrs Edith Rigby". WinckleySquare.org.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 Ashworth, Elizabeth (2006). Champion Lancastrians. Sigma Leisure. pp. 79–82. ISBN 1-85058-833-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Avenham Walks – Stop 7 – Edith Rigby". Avenham Walks. Retrieved 31 May 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Mrs Rigby committed to trial, The Times, 18 July 1913, page 14, column c.

External links