Radical Woman of the Day: Hannah Mitchell

On this day in 1872 was born Hannah Webster Mitchell, English suffragist and later, Manchester City Council member and magistrate. Born into a poor family and unable to be formally educated, Mitchell left home at the age of 14 to work as a dressmaker in Bolton, Lancashire, where she got involved in the socialist movement.

Having already grown disillusioned as a child about the role of women in domestic married life, Hanna Webster reluctantly married Gibbon Mitchell when he agreed they would divide the domestic duties equally between them. Gibbon failed to completely live up to this ideal, so Mitchell found herself caring for their son and an orphaned niece while also performing household chores and continuing to work as a seamstress. On top of this, she soon began speaking across the country on behalf of the Women’s Social and Political Union, although she later joined the Women’s Freedom League instead.

Mitchell remained active in the socialist Independent Labour Party throughout this time and participated in the pacifist movement during World War I by volunteering for the Party’s No Conscription Fellowship. In 1924, a few years after women had gained limited enfranchisement, the ILP nominated her to the Manchester City Council. She won the election and served on the council until 1935. Beginning in 1926 she also spent 11 years serving as a magistrate. In 1928, The Representation of the People Act granted voting rights to all women over the age of 21.