Edith Rigby (1872-1948)

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - WOMEN'S INSTITUTE -

Edith Rigby was the founder of Lan­cashire’s first Women’s In­sti­tute, opened at Hut­ton and How­ick in 1918.

At first glance she would ap­pear to be ut­terly con­ven­tional. She was a doc­tor’s wife from Pre­ston, el­e­gant, stylish and com­fort­ably off. But Edith stood apart from her middle-class peers: she de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in the so­cial con­di­tions of lo­cal mill-work­ers and was an ar­dent suf­fragette.

In fact, she be­came a no­to­ri­ous pub­lic men­ace, whose of­fences in­cluded sprin­kling acid on a golf course; set­ting fire to the in­dus­tri­al­ist Lord Lev­er­hulme’s bun­ga­low at Riv­ing­ton Pike and to the Black­burn Rovers’ foot­ball ground; and hurl­ing first black pud­dings and then bombs (both com­mend­ably home-made) at Win­ston Churchill when he vis­ited the Liverpool Cot­ton Ex­change in 1913.

Edith was im­pris­oned seven times, went on hunger strike and was force-fed – and be­lieved the Women’s In­sti­tute to be ut­terly cut­ting-edge. It is “a pil­lar sup­port­ing the tem­ple of na­tional en­light­en­ment”, she proudly claimed. To her, the most im­por­tant thing about the WI was its po­ten­tial to in­spire mem­bers to act on their be­liefs; to give them the con­fi­dence to stand up and be counted. She is still fondly re­mem­bered in her home­town.

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