Edith Rigby (Suffragette)

Born 1872, Died 1950. Rigby (born Rayner) was one of seven children of Dr Alexander Clement Rayner. 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.

In 1907 she formed the Preston branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). 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. Rigby had been given a Hunger Strike Medal ‘for Valour’ by WSPU. During the Great War the Women’s Social and Political Union decided not to campaign on suffrage issues. Edith disagreed with this and joined the Independent Women’s Social and Political Union (IWSPU), forming a branch in Preston. She also joined the Women’s Land Army, and continued to remain devoted to a life rejecting conventional beliefs about women. Edith was determined to express her independence of mind and courage in her own convictions, with many of the ideals she championed becoming accepted over time.

In Rigby’s later life she was also one of the first Preston women to ride a bike. Along with her husband, Edith moved to a cottage just outside of Preston which they named ‘Marigold Cottage’. Here they made a home with their adopted son named Sandy. It was also here where Edith followed the teachings of Rudolph Steiner and produced food for the war effort. After the Great War, in the 1920s, Edith became a founding member and the president of the Hutton and Howick Women’s Institute. Due to her radical views and actions Edith wasn’t approved of in her own time. However, many people have now come to respect her passion and contributions to her cause.

The home where Rigby lived with her husband Charles can be visited on Winckley Square and makes up part of the self-guided Blue Plaque Trail.

  (Ref: Visit Preston)