Born in Tipperary in 1850, Agnes was one of the millions of Irish who had to emigrate in search of a living.  Because British imperialism sought to keep Ireland (apart from a small area around Belfast) as a supplier of cheap food and labour to their empire, there was little industrial development and many had to leave Ireland to find work.  Agnes went to London.

She was a student of pre-school education, and together with a veteran of the 1871 Paris Commune, Louise Michel, she ran the International School at 19 Fitzroy Square.

Along with others, including future British Labour Party leader Ramsay McDonald, she lived in a communal house at 29 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury until it closed in 1892.  The tenants had their own rooms and but ate their meals together, which was considered far from respectable at the time.  According to historian Nick Heath she annoyed other tenants by wanting to discuss anarchism over breakfast!  The Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta, then in exile in England, made frequent visits to discuss anarchism with her at this address.

She wrote for the anarchist paper Freedom and conducted speaking tours of England and Scotland making the case for ‘anarchist socialism’.  Among her writings are Women under Socialism (1892), Anarchist Communism in Relation to State Socialism (1896) and The Probable Evolution of British Socialism Tomorrow (1896).

Also in 1896 she attended the Congress of the Second International held in London, acting as a delegate for French syndicalists unable to attend.

Towards the end of the 1890s she was one of several anarchists to join the Independent Labour Party, representing some temporary loss of confidence within the English movement.  Other indications of this were the decline of both open-air and printed propaganda, with the movement not recovering until around 1903.

Heath’s researches show Agnes Henry was listed on the Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners 1905-1914 (compiled by the Suffragette Fellowship around 1950, based on recollections of participants), and appears to have been one of those arrested during the pre-World War 1 campaign.

One of her last public appearances was in 1912 when she spoke at a rally in Trafalgar Square as part of the successful campaign to prevent the deportation of Malatesta from Britain.

Letter to Freedom about the Carmaux strike in France

Report of a speaking tour in 1893

“In anarchism I see the only base for women to escape marriage without love and obligatory maternity, and the degrading laws and servile customs to which women of all classes have been subjected for so long”.

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