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Exploring Leicester suffragettes with local historian Jess Jenkins
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In conversation with Jess Jenkins
Megan Lupton, Communications Coordinator at The Gazette, recently spoke with local historian and author Jess Jenkins about fire-starting suffragette Lillian Lenton in a follow-up to an article we published in March. This Q&A is a teaser for an upcoming feature delving more into the life of Lillian and other local suffragettes.
Megan Lupton: How did you become so fascinated with the suffragette movement, particularly Leicestershire suffragettes?
Jess Jenkins: "Well, I've been an archivist for 30-odd years at the Record Office for Leicestershire. And to be honest, for a lot of that period, I wasn't that interested in suffragettes and suffragists, which is awful really because I took it all for granted. I took having an education, having a two-year degree, choosing the profession I wanted, and not having to give up my job when I got married for granted. I wasn't particularly interested in suffragettes.
"But then, in 2007, we realised that it was the centenary of forming the Leicester branch of the Women's Social and Political Union. And I volunteered to do an exhibition. And so I found myself leafing through local newspapers of the time. I knew about Alice Hawkins. But nobody else. Nothing else from this local area. And what I found in the newspapers was fascinating because women were writing in the newspapers, which I didn't realise, you know, particularly the labour newspaper, Leicester Pioneer. They are particularly early stage; they allowed women to write, and women were writing about what protests had been on and things like this, and all sorts of people I discovered. It was fascinating".