Exploring Leicester suffragettes with local historian Jess Jenkins

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Surveillance photo of militant suffragettes by Criminal Record Office
Lillian Lenton, the Leicester Pimpernel, pictured second, top left.

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".

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