AGNES SLACK SAUNDERS 1858 – 1946

 

Agnes Slack was born in Ripley, Derbyshire to Thomas (a master brickmaker) and Mary Ann. Agnes had two siblings; a sister, Marian and a brother, John. Marian married a well-known wool manufacturer, and John became a lawyer, Member of Parliament, and a Methodist lay preacher. She married Charles Saunders not long before she died in her 80’s, becoming Agnes Slack Saunders. Agnes signed the temperance pledge in 1883, and this set the foundations for her life’s work.

 

LEARNING TO RIDE

 

During her lifetime, Agnes worked tremendously hard to further the temperance movement, and famously travelled over 200,000 miles for temperance across four continents. Agnes kept thorough scrapbooks which contained newspaper clippings, photographs and personal letters from the places she travelled to. An article from the 1941 edition of the White Ribbon magazine provides us with a snapshot of the many countries she visited:

South Africa

Finland

Switzerland

Turkey

New Zealand

Japan

Jamaica

Egypt

Cuba

Dominican Republic

The black line indicates Agnes’ 5,000 mile route through India in 1907-1908

India

Palestine

Puerto Rico

Australia

Ireland

America

Canada

France

Norway

Sweden

AGNES SLACK ADDRESSING TROOPS INDIA c1907

 

She sometimes travelled alone, which was incredibly courageous and somewhat unheard of for a woman during the Victorian and Edwardian era. Agnes addressed hundreds and thousands of people during her travels and encouraged thousands of people to sign the pledge.

 

AGNES SLACK (CENTRE) AT A WCTU MEETING IN BOSTON c1906

 

During her travels she conversed with high-ranking officials including American Presidents Grover Cleveland and Franklin Roosevelt, and Mahatma Ghandi. Agnes played a part in securing war-time restrictions on alcohol and reducing licensed public house opening hours when the Defence of the Realm Act came into effect in 1914.