Hannah Mitchell (1872-1956) was born on a small Derbyshire farm, received only two weeks formal education and fled home at fourteen to escape the wrath and beatings of her mother. In Bolton she found work as a badly paid dressmaker, spending some of her earnings on subscribing to a small library and where she taught herself to read and write.
She met Gibbon Mitchell, a tailor’s cutter who was also a socialist and together they attended local branch meetings of the Independent Labour Party. (ILP) They became active in the trade union movement and passionate supporters of The Clarion journal of Robert Blanchford.
When the pair married in 1895, Hannah insisted that Gibbon share domestic duties and despite her husband agreeing to do so he never ever quite did so.
In 1904, Hannah joined the Women’s Social and Political Union – or Suffragettes as they were better known – that was headed by Emmeline Pankhurst. In 1905 Hannah became a full-time organiser for the Union. She objected to how Emmeline and her sister Cristabel made all the major decisions without consulting fellow WSPU members.
When Hannah disrupted a political meeting in 1906 at which future Prime Minister Winston Churchill was speaking, she was charged with obstruction and given a three-day jail sentence.
When WWI started, Mitchell refused to get involved in the WSPU army recruiting campaign. She joined up with the ILP and other organisations opposed to the war.
In 1924 Hannah Mitchell was elected to the Manchester City Council, who on 1 January 1996 erected a plaque in her honour at Ingham Street where she lived. Mitchell served as a councillor until 1935. She later wrote her autobiography The Hard Way Up in her seventies but it was not published until twelve years after her death in 1956.
A second plaque honouring Mitchell was unveiled in November 2018. It is part of South Derbyshire District Council’s Swadlincote Heritage Trail, celebrating the town’s inspirational industries, individuals and places and is located near to where she lived in her early years in Newhall.
There is also a plaque, erected in Malakoff Street, Stalybridge by Tameside Metropolitan Borough in 2000, to Gibbon Mitchell.