Anne Knight was the daughter of William Knight (1756–1814), a Chelmsford grocer and his wife Priscilla Allen. The families were both Quakers and several members took an active part in the temperance and anti-slavery movements.
Early efforts and frustrations
When women were prevented from participating in the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, Knight was outraged, and started to campaign for women's rights. A few women were included in the painting of the convention with Knight; these were Elizabeth Pease, Amelia Opie, Baroness Byron, Mary Anne Rawson, Mrs John Beaumont, Elizabeth Tredgold, Thomas Clarkson's daughter Mary and right at the back Lucretia Mott.
In 1847 Knight produced what is considered the first leaflet for women's suffrage. Her efforts to impress the importance of women's suffrage on such reform leaders as Henry Brougham and Richard Cobden proved of little use, as did her efforts with the Chartist leadership.
Move to France
She moved to France in 1846 and participated in the revolution of 1848, and attended the international peace conference in Paris in 1849. With Jeanne Deroin she challenged the banning of women from political clubs and of publication of feminist material. In 1851, she worked with Anne Kent to form the Sheffield Female Political Association, the first British organisation to call for women's suffrage.
Death and commemorations
Anne Knight never married and died in Waldersbach, near Strasbourg, France on 4 November 1862, at the house of the grandson of Jean-Frédéric Oberlin (1740–1820), a philanthropist whose work she revered.
A village, Knightsville in Jamaica, was named after her, or possibly after her younger sister Maria (1791–1870), who visited the West Indies in the mid-1810s with the abolitionist John Candler (1787–1869).
One of the student accommodation 'New Houses' at the University of Essex, Anne Knight House, is named after her. So also is Anne Knight House, opened in January 2005 by the Colchester Quaker Housing Association opened a hostel for young people. A Grade II listed building in Chelmsford, her birthplace, used as a Quaker Meeting House from 1823 until the 1950s, was named Anne Knight Building in her honour. It formed part of the Anglia Ruskin University Central Campus, until it was relocated in 2008. The building, opposite the railway station, is currently vacant, but forms part of an imminent redevelopment plan by Genesis Housing Association.
- Edward H. Milligan: Knight, Anne (1786–1862). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004) Retrieved 4 November 2010.
- The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, accessed 19 July 2008
- Edward H. Milligan: Knight, Anne (1786–1862).... Quoting F. B. Tolles, ed.: Slavery and 'the Woman Question' (London: Journal of the Friends Historical Society Supplement, 1952), p. 29.
- Central Chelmsford Consultaion. Retrieved 30 September 2011.