Annot Robinson (1874-1925), written by Ali Ronan
Annot Wilkie was born in Montrose on 8 June 1874 into a well-educated but poor family. She went to the University of Dundee but was unable to get her degree because she was a woman. She then trained as a teacher. By the early 1900s she was an active member of the Dundee Independent Labour Party where she knew other socialist women like Agnes Husband. She became Secretary of the Dundee branch of the WSPU. In 1907 she moved to Manchester to marry another ILP member Sam Robinson and worked briefly as a WSPU organiser. In February 1908 she took part, with other WSPU members, in an attempt to force their way into the House of Commons hidden in a furniture van. She served 6 weeks in prison.
In 1910 Annot became a part-time organiser for the Women’s Labour League (WLL) and that year put forward a conference resolution condemning the Labour Party leadership for its lack of support for the women’s franchise. By this time she was an active member of the local ILP and had 2 daughters, the youngest Helen being blessed by Keir Hardie at her christening. By 1911 her marriage was breaking down and she was dismayed by the Pankhurst’s autocratic leadership of the WSPU.
In 1912, she moved to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) as a full-time organiser in the Election Fighting Fund which was an informal arrangement with local Labour activists to promote pro-suffrage candidates at elections. She was active in the EFF across the NW textile towns and worked for a time in Blackburn with Ellen Wilkinson as her assistant.
When war came in August 1914, Annot spoke out against the war on a number of public platforms and was a signatory, alongside Margaret Ashton and a number of other Manchester women, to the “Christmas Letter “ an open letter of sisterhood and solidarity to German women from British women which was published in the radical press in the first winter of the war. She was initially active on relief committees in Manchester in 1914, highlighting the need for better war allowances and better housing although her war work became increasingly critical of the war