7. Anne Knight might have been a pacifist Quaker but she was a passionate campaigner against slavery and for women’s rights
In the one photo that we have of her, Anne Knight looks like a timid old lady. In reality, she was anything but. Sure, she might have been a devout Quaker, a Christian dedicated to non-violence. However, she was one of the most ardent campaigners against slavery in all of Europe. Knight was also a feminist trailblazer, advocating for women’s suffrage long before the more-famous Suffragettes.
Knight was born into a fiercely Quaker family in northern England in 1786. As a young lady, she joined her local Anti-Slavery Society and became increasingly involved in the cause. This was her main passion – until she tried to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840. The event was men-only. Knight was furious. From then on, she became an ardent campaigner for women’s rights. Just a few years later, in 1847, she produced what is considered to be the world’s first leaflet on women’s suffrage. This small publication was to have a huge impact on future generations.
Throughout the 1840s, Knight traveled extensively through Europe. As a skilled linguist, she addressed audiences in France and Germany, arguing against slavery and in favour of gender equality. When she did return home, she rallied English women to her cause. Most notably, in 1851, she founded the Sheffield Female Reform Association, Britain’s first such group. She died in France in 1862, having been active in her struggles right up until the end.