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KP/JK - Jessie Kenney

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Jessie Kenney
Kenney, Jessie
Administrative/Biographical history
Jessica (Jessie) Kenney (1887-1985) was the ninth child of Horatio Nelson Kenney and Ann Wood, and Annie Kenney's younger sister. Her career largely mirrored that of Annie Kenney until 1918. She had a gift for organisation and was for a time Secretary of the WSPU. She worked alongside Christabel Pankhurst in Paris from 1912, assisting Christabel in the long-range direction of WSPU operations. In 1917 she accompanied Emmeline Pankhurst to Russia, on behalf of the British government. Their particular objective was to promote the mobilisation of Russian women in the war effort. Jessie was in Russia for some three months and made a detailed record of events which she later prepared for publication under the title The Price of Liberty. The work was never published.

By 1920 Jessie, too, had withdrawn from active political campaigning, and trained as a
wireless telegraph (W/T) operator. She had a talent for the work and it was her ambition to work as a W/T operator on board ship, but she was thwarted in this aim and settled for work as a stewardess. During the 1930s she worked variously for the Furness and Orient lines. Aboard ship she read voraciously, and began to write. On the outbreak of World War II she was obliged to remain in Britain, vacating her London flat in 1940 to reside temporarily with her sister Annie and brother-in-law James Taylor in Letchworth. After the war, and unsuccessful in her efforts to follow a career as a writer, she worked as a school secretary and welfare assistant at Battersea County Secondary School.

After her retirement Jessie remained in London until 1965, when failing health precluded wholly independent living. For a while she appears to have resided in various hotels and pensions. In 1969 she took up residence in St Francis' Nursing Home, Braintree, and remained there, in the care of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters, until her death in 1985.

Having briefly been a Theosophist, Jessie was persuaded by Annie Kenney to join the
Rosicrucian Order. She was active for some years in one of the Order's London Chapters, but was drawn towards Catholicism in her last years in Braintree; she was received into the Roman Catholic Church on Christmas Day 1973.
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