Pankhurst, Emmeline (1858–1928)

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Pankhurst, Emmeline (1858–1928)

Matriarch of radical feminism in Britain who, along with her daughter Christabel, founded the Women's Social and Political Union, the organization which represented the most militant wing of the British women's suffrage movement. Born Emmeline Goulden in Manchester, England, on July 14, 1858; died on June 14, 1928, in London, England; eldest of 11 children (including five daughters) of Robert Goulden (owner of a calico-printing and bleach works) and Sophia Jane Craine (Crane) Goulden; married Richard Marsden Pankhurst, LL.D., in 1879; children: Christabel Harriet Pankhurst (1880–1958); Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst (1882–1960); Francis Henry (Frank) Pankhurst (1884–1888); Adela Constantia Mary Pankhurst (1885–1961); Henry Francis (Harry) Pankhurst (1889–1910).

Death of son Frank (1888); widowed (1898); founded Women's Social and Political Union (1903); death of son Harry (1910); co-founded the British Women's Party (1917); moved to Canada (1918); returned to England (1926).

Selected writings:

The Trial of the Suffragette Leaders (London: The Woman's Press, 190?); The Importance of the Vote (London: The Woman's Press, 1908); Verbatim report of Mrs. Pankhurst's speech, delivered 13 November 1913 at Parson's Theater, Hartford, Conn. (Hartford: Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association, 1913); My Own Story (London: G. Nash, 1914).

The lives of Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters challenge several significant gender stereotypes which are prevalent in Western patriarchal culture: among them are the assumption that the British, especially British women, are mild-mannered and reserved; the notion that political violence is foreign to women's nature; and finally, the belief that each generation of women in the 20th century has been more articulate and assertive in demanding its legal and political rights. Those who think that we have "come a long way, baby" need only to study the lives of the remarkable Pankhurst women to discover how dangerous it is to base historical generalizations on journalists' assumptions and cigarette slogans.

Unlike the case of most political rebels, Emmeline Goulden Pankhurst's radicalism was home grown. The third generation of female social activists in her family, she was born in 1858 in Manchester, England, the daughter of Robert Goulden and Sophia Jane Goulden . Her grandmother, Mary Goulden , had been a member of the Anti-Corn Law League while both her parents were actively involved in a variety of radical political causes in Manchester. In 1865, her father helped found the original Women's Suffrage Committee, and her mother also worked actively for women's emancipation. Indeed, Emmeline was only 14 years old when her mother first took her to a women's suffrage meeting.

Although she shared her parents' deep personal commitment to social causes, Emmeline also loved beautiful things and always wore feminine clothing because she believed it enhanced her personal style. Throughout her life, she paid careful attention to both her appearance and her voice. She never shouted, but her diction was so pure and her voice was so powerful and resonant that she never needed to use a microphone, regardless of the size of the auditorium in which she was speaking. There is little doubt that her striking, frail beauty, confident demeanor, dignified carriage, sonorous voice, and photogenic face were assets in her political endeavors.

She attended a private school in Manchester until the age of 15 when she was sent to Paris to the École Normale in the Avenue de Neuilly where she became close friends with Noemie de Rochefort (Dufaux) , daughter of Marquis Henri de Rochefort-Lucay, the dashing hero of the abortive revolutionary Paris Commune of 1871. The Rochefort family introduced Emmeline to the literary and political circles of Paris, an experience which dazzled her, and to French couturiers who helped her to develop a personal style of fashion. During this sojourn, the love of all things French became imbedded in her personality as did her distaste for most things German.

Upon returning to her parents' home in Manchester at age 18, Emmeline settled into their radical socio-political circle. Dr. Richard Marsden Pankhurst, a barrister who had made a reputation both as a political thinker and an activist, was a frequent guest in the Goulden home. When 20-year-old Emmeline met and married 40-year-old Richard it was a genuine love match based on mutual respect.

After their wedding in 1879, Pankhurst became deeply involved with her husband's career as well as with the causes they both championed. Despite the difference in their ages, their marriage was an almost unqualified success, and their home, "Old Trafford" at One Dayton Terrace, Manchester, was a happy one. Emmeline's commitment to women's legal and political emancipation was matched or surpassed by her husband who had helped to draft the Women's Disabilities Removal Act, the first Women's Suffrage bill submitted to Parliament (1870), and served as counsel for the claimants in the groundbreaking Chorlton v. Lings case of 1868 in which 5,346 women householders of Manchester unsuccessfully demanded the right to vote under the existing law. With his wife's support, he also drafted the Married Women's Property Act of 1882, argued many women's rights cases before the bar, and unsuccessfully stood for election as a Liberal parliamentary candidate from Rotherhithe in 1884. Emmeline Pankhurst's active participation in her husband's campaign taught her to speak with ease in public, to deal successfully with hecklers, and even how to dodge the mice (alive and dead), tomatoes, flour and stones sometimes hurled at British political speakers, especially those speaking in favor of women's suffrage. In the same year, the Pankhursts broke with the Liberal Party because its leader, William Gladstone, refused to put women's suffrage into the Reform Bill of 1884; and, soon thereafter, they joined the Fabian Society.

In 1895, they moved to London where Emmeline Pankhurst attempted to help with the faltering family finances by opening Emerson and Co., a small "fancy goods" shop selling silks, pottery, lampshades, and bric-a-brac in the West End of the city—an enterprise which soon was awash in red ink. At first, they lived above the shop at 165 Hampsted Rd., Bloomsbury, but with the failure of Emerson's, the family moved to 8 Russell Square at the corner of Barnard Street where Emmeline immersed herself in running a political salon which included prominent socialist and progressive thinkers such as Kier Hardie, Annie Besant, Elizabeth Cady Stanton , Sir Charles Dilke and Emily Dilke , and William Morris. In addition, in 1889, Emmeline and Richard Pankhurst co-founded the Women's Franchise League to obtain the right for women to vote in local elections.

Between 1880 and 1889, despite this whirlwind of political activity, Emmeline Pankhurst gave birth to five children—Christabel (b. September 22, 1880), Sylvia (b. May 5, 1882), Frank Henry (b. February 1884 and died in childhood of diphtheria in 1888), Adela (b. June 19, 1885), and Henry Frank, known as Harry (b. July 1889 and died of poliomyelitis in 1910). Her mothering was, at best, erratic. She personally raised her eldest daughter, Christabel, with whom she formed an intensely close lifelong bond, and was somewhat involved in the upbringing of her second daughter, Sylvia. Although she managed to instill a sense of love and security in the rest of her brood through spurts of maternal solicitude, for the most part she allowed governesses to supervise the upbringing of the younger children. This scattergun approach to parenting did not seem to lessen the love and loyalty that the Pankhurst children felt for both parents.

Financial reverses forced the Pankhursts to return to Manchester in 1893 where they took up residence at 4 Buckingham Crescent, Victoria Park. Richard Pankhurst resumed his legal career, and the couple soon became involved with the work of the Manchester Suffrage Society. In 1894, they joined the new Independent Labour Party for which Richard stood twice, unsuccessfully, as a candidate for Parliament. Emmeline not only worked actively in her husband's election campaigns, she also organized free canteen

restaurants for the poor and in 1895 was elected to an unpaid post on the Board of Poor Law Guardians of a workhouse.

In 1898, she crossed the Channel to visit Christabel who was perfecting her French by living in Geneva with her mother's old schoolfriend Noemie de Rochefort Dufaux, and her husband Swiss painter Frédéric Dufaux. During the visit, a telegram from Sylvia, reading "Father ill. Come.," called her back to England. On the return train, she learned of the death of her husband from a perforated ulcer when she spotted its announcement in bold newspaper headlines. Because her husband's death left her in dire financial straits, Pankhurst accepted paid employment as a Registrar of Births and Deaths in Rusholme, Manchester, and, in 1898, reopened Emerson's, her "fancy goods" shop. Despite the need to make a living sufficient to support a four-child household, she found time to work on behalf of women's emancipation and sit on the Manchester School Board.

In 1903, as a tribute to his work on behalf of feminist and social causes, the Labour Party in Manchester named a new meeting facility in Salford, Pankhurst Hall, in Richard Pankhurst's memory. They commissioned Sylvia Pankhurst to decorate it and paint murals on the walls but, paradoxically, when the work was complete, the Labour Party refused to permit women to enter it because they wanted it as a social club open only to male party members. It was this incident which precipitated Emmeline Pankhurst's decision to break with the Labour Party.

Royal Albert Hall, London, October 17, 1912)">

And my last word is to the Government: I incite this meeting to rebellion!

—Emmeline Pankhurst (speech delivered at Royal Albert Hall, London, October 17, 1912)

On October 10, 1903, along with Christabel, she invited a few trusted Labour women to her home at 62 Nelson Street where she founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), an organization which was from its inception independent of all political parties and committed to direct and immediate radical political action to achieve its only goal—women's suffrage. As Pankhurst later explained, "There is no department of life in which the possession of the Parliamentary Vote will not make things easier for women today." Indeed, she believed that because the vote for women was so crucial, the WSPU had to vigorously oppose whatever party was in power until it committed itself irrevocably to women's suffrage as a party measure.

WSPU political activism at first entailed only tactical militancy in harassing Liberal politicians and disrupting their meetings. When arrested for such disruptions, WSPU members were sentenced to prison terms because, taking their cue from the Pankhursts, they invariably refused on principle to pay the fines assessed by courts which did not consider them full citizens. In the early years, this militancy on the part of the WSPU distinguished it from all other suffrage organizations and in 1906 led Emmeline Pankhurst to sever all ties with the moderate National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett .

Emmeline Pankhurst's concept of political strategy and tactics was influenced by two main sources: her late husband and her eldest daughter. Christabel had a logical, trained legal mind which was supported by the uncompromising sureness which often characterizes youthful political theoreticians. Even though Emmeline Pankhurst always asserted that violence was a temporary expedient made necessary by circumstances, the WSPU's commitment to increasingly militant political action forced her to resign her post as Registrar of Births and Deaths in Manchester (which entailed the loss of her government pension) in 1907. During the same year, she moved the offices of the WSPU to Clement's Inn in London where she believed militancy would be more effective.

Because the WSPU was controlled by the Pankhursts and run autocratically, any dissent within the ranks resulted in splits within the WSPU and the subsequent formation of splinter groups, all of which were more moderate than the WSPU but much more radical than the NUWSS. One such organization was the Women's Freedom League which was founded in 1907 by Charlotte Despard following her dismissal from the WSPU board by Emmeline Pankhurst after unsuccessfully attempting to alter the WSPU by turning it into a more democratic organization. It was, perhaps, prophetic that in 1907 Sylvia and Adela Pankhurst would have welcomed a more democratic WSPU, but they supported the autocratic administrative policy dictated by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst out of family loyalty. Nonetheless, since the younger Pankhurst daughters retained their father's democratic and socialist principles, the increasingly conservative political outlook which began to permeate WSPU policy after 1907 would become the source of a family rift and a second ideologically dictated split within the WSPU in 1914.

Suffragette (the name given to the WSPU radicals by the London Daily Mail in 1906) disputations and demonstrations were an unremarkable constant on the British political scene until serious violence first broke out in 1908 at Caxton Hall. Here, in response to a large suffrage demonstration, members of the crowd (who the demonstrators charged were plain-clothes policemen) attacked the women with truncheons (billy clubs) and seriously wounded several of the demonstrators. This, the Pankhursts believed, was a red flag waved in their faces by the government.

Therefore, Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst argued, since patriarchal Britain respected the rights of property more than those of women, the only way to attack government was to strike blows at the thing it most respected, private property. They responded by massive rounds of stone throwing and property destruction designed to force the government to deal seriously with the cause of women's suffrage. British insurance companies, which had to pay large claims for much of the damage, were particular targets of the WSPU. "The argument of the broken window pane," as Emmeline Pankhurst described this violence against property, began with a relatively mild campaign of window smashing which eventually escalated into what she called "guerrilla warfare" by British women against their government.

Increased property violence led to the arrests of large numbers of suffragists and the increasingly hostile treatment of these prisoners by the authorities. To counter this, women suffrage prisoners began hunger striking—a tactic adopted by several later political protest movements. This led to severe retaliation when the government instituted the practice of forcible feeding in Strangeways Jail in September 1909. It was a cruel and brutal procedure which often left healthy victims severely debilitated and led to the death or permanent invalidism of several prominent suffrage workers who were not in robust health, such as Lady Constance Lytton . Emmeline Pankhurst endured many episodes of forcible feeding which left her weak, bruised, and battered but still defiant. Hundreds of dedicated hunger strikers were prepared to equal her show of dedication. As Pankhurst described the valor of women's suffrage hunger-strikers in 1913:

At the present time there are women lying at death's door recovering enough strength to undergo operations … [who] have not given in and won't give in, and who will be prepared, as soon as they get up from their sick-beds to go on as before. There are women who are being carried from their sick-beds on stretchers into [WSPU] meetings.

Outrage at the government's cruelty in continuing forcible feeding, despite pleas from the British medical and religious communities, attracted more women to the suffrage cause and more contributions to the WSPU. On November 18, 1910, known unaffectionately as "Black Friday," an incident similar to that at Caxton Hall took place except that in this instance the beatings administered to women suffragists were accompanied by humiliating sexual groping. This went on for nearly six hours and resulted in broken bones, ripped flesh, torn clothes, and the death of at least two of the demonstrators from injuries suffered during the beatings.

The year 1910 also brought great personal sorrow to Emmeline Pankhurst with the premature deaths of her only surviving son Harry in January, and her sister, suffragist Mary Goulden Clarke , in December, from a stroke brought on by the sapping effects of brutal forcible feeding after a hunger strike. Pankhurst wrote that her sister was simply "too frail to weather this rude tide of militant struggle."

The year 1910 also was the coronation year for the new monarch, George V. In order for the coronation to proceed without embarrassing demonstrations, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith negotiated a "truce" with the WSPU and the other suffrage leagues: government support for some form of women's suffrage in exchange for a domestic armistice. Christabel was skeptical about the good faith with which this offer was made, but her mother persuaded her to accept the truce. All activist women's suffrage protest ceased. Although the general framework of the settlement which eventually resulted in votes for women was worked out during this time, Christabel had correctly assessed the government's motives. Almost a year to the day since Black Friday, Asquith announced that the government would sponsor a new suffrage bill which would apply only to men and added insult to injury when he noted "democracy has no quarrel with the distinctions made by nature."

This was a signal for open revolt by the WSPU which escalated its violence during the next two and a half years into what the Pankhursts termed "civil war" against the government, using such tactics as organized arson and bombing. The Pankhursts made it clear that the only quarter to be given was that, however violent, suffragists would never under any circumstances take a human life. As Emmeline Pankhurst explained, "If we wish to succeed, we must take to guerrilla warfare. We have to fight by our woman's wit. One thing we regard as sacred and that is human life." The remarkable intelligence network put together by the Pankhursts allowed them to keep this pledge despite their unshakable commitment to domestic terrorism after 1912. Paradoxically, some historians have argued that the Pankhursts' reluctance to take human lives or to destroy hard economic targets, such as producing factories, or targets that could jeopardize British national security made them less dangerous and, therefore, less effective. The Pankhursts' stance, nonetheless, provides a concrete historical example disproving the theory that, no matter how much effort is expended in its execution, a terrorist organization cannot conduct an effective campaign of domestic violence which is limited by a respect for human life.

During this period of escalating violence, the four Pankhurst women were arrested so frequently that they realized that at least one of them had to be invulnerable to the government. Therefore, with the blessing of her mother, Christabel donned a flimsy disguise and escaped from England to Paris in 1912. From her safe haven in France, she could continue to direct WSPU policy and edit the union's journal, The Suffragette, while her mother took charge of the tactical direction of the movement.

After 1912, the WSPU was more violent and disrupted public life in Britain more consistently than any other dissident political group. Although some WSPU members defected to less radical suffrage organizations during this time, those who remained were prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to support the Pankhursts' call for guerrilla warfare. Emmeline Pankhurst explained that radically violent actions undertaken by women were warranted because, "we, being voteless, have no constitutional means whatever for the redress of our grievance." From her first arrest in 1908 to the end of the suffrage terrorist campaign in 1914, Pankhurst considered herself to be a soldier in the front lines of battle. When arrested for militant acts, she declared, "I look upon myself as a prisoner of war."

Although many WSPU terrorists were young, women of all ages participated in the struggle. Even very old women startled the police by applying for gun licenses while wearing the women's suffrage colors of purple, green, and white or smashing plate-glass windows in stores and offices by shooting stones through them with catapults (slingshots) fired from the open upper-decks of London's buses. (Judo-trained female body guards often protected "shooters" from civilians who might disarm them.) However, the women not only organized massive campaigns of window breaking and defacing private and public property, they burned so many letters in mailboxes that the number of private delivery services in central London escalated rapidly. Paintings were slashed and priceless sculpture was smashed; the organ was flooded at the Albert Hall; the tea pavilion at Kew Gardens was burned and its Orchid House was destroyed; race courses were burned; concession stands were blown up as were abandoned castles, unused railroad cars, and non-producing factories; "votes for women" was burned with acid into the "sacred cricket fields" of Oxford, Cambridge, and many elite prep schools such as Eton and Harrow; boats and boat houses were destroyed, as were bowling greens and sports arenas; and "no votes, no golf" was burned into the putting greens of golf links. Even the king was not spared: he must have been horrified on the day he discovered that the purple, green, and white flags of the women's suffrage movement had been substituted for the Royal Crests on his private golf course. Telephone wires all over Britain were cut; envelopes containing snuff and red paper were sent to Cabinet ministers; women's suffrage graffiti was chalked or painted on walls and pavements; and false fire alarms were set off in Britain's major cities. Communications were disrupted all over the British Isles; in fact, on three different occasions all communication between London and Glasgow was cut completely, at least once for a full day. Seats in theaters and sporting arenas often were slashed or stencilled with "votes for women" signs; kiosks at Regents Park were destroyed; bombs were placed in insurance company offices, government buildings and Liberal Party property; Cabinet minister David Lloyd George's new house was set ablaze; stained-glass windows in churches were shattered; women's suffrage leaflets were dropped from hot-air balloons floating over London's parks; and telegrams were sent by WSPU militants bogusly calling up the Army Reserves and the Territorial Guards.

In 1913, the government countered with a new tactic by passing the so-called "Cat and Mouse" bill (The Prisoners' Temporary Discharge Act) which allowed the release of hunger-striking suffrage prisoners and their re-arrest on the same charge without the formality of any type of court procedure when they had recovered their health. Despite the fact that the "Cat and Mouse" act ran counter to the established principles of English law, the government used it extensively. For example, between January and June 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested and released 12 times, the final time in such a debilitated condition that she was not recognized by some of her colleagues.

Clarke, Mary Goulden (d. 1910)

English suffragist. Died in December 25, 1910, in Manchester, England; daughter of Robert Goulden (owner of a calico-printing and bleach works) and Sophia Jane Craine (Crane) Goulden; sister of Emmeline Pankhurst (1858–1928); married.

Mary Goulden Clarke was the daughter of Robert Goulden and Sophia Jane Goulden and the sister of Emmeline Pankhurst . Mired in an unhappy marriage, Clarke became an organizer for the WSPU in Brighton where, frail and sensitive, she often faced down the seaside rowdies with courage. Arrested for window-breaking on Black Friday, treated roughly by police and bands of toughs, and force-fed in jail for one month, she died two days after her release while attending Christmas dinner with Emmeline and other members of the Pankhurst family. After Mary had quietly left the table, Emmeline found her unconscious; Clarke died of a burst blood vessel in her brain.

In 1914, Pankhurst had to deal with what she considered to be the aberrant behavior of two of her daughters—Sylvia, who had organized a working-class suffrage organization within the WSPU called the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS), and Adela who supported her. Sylvia's vocal disapproval of her mother and sister's elitist strategy and autocratic methods embarrassed Christabel who believed that, despite the huge demonstrations of working-class men and women in support of women's suffrage organized by her sister, Sylvia's efforts were counter-productive. So long as Sylvia and Adela espoused socialism, they could not embrace the principle that only women of property would first be enfranchised—a compromise Emmeline and Christabel were prepared to make in order to get the principle of votes for women recognized. Adela emigrated to Australia to work with a socialist-feminist organization run by Vida Goldstein . Sylvia crossed the Channel to what proved to be a family showdown in Paris. Emmeline Pankhurst agreed with Christabel that Sylvia's independence from WSPU policy was intolerable and expelled her and the ELFS from the WSPU. Sylvia then garnered alternative funding to continue her work in London's East End while the WSPU escalated its campaign of violence against property, but Pankhurst family unity was shattered.

What ultimately would have happened to women's suffrage had the Great War (1914–18) not intervened is difficult to predict with certainty. It is possible that if a Labour-Liberal coalition government had been Asquith's only possibility of remaining in power, he would have accepted a form of women's suffrage since Labour was almost irrevocably committed to the full democratization of British society as a condition for a coalition partnership. Despite what seemed to be a peace offering by Asquith when he agreed to receive a deputation of working-class women affiliated with the ELFS, Christabel and Emmeline refused to believe that he was acting in good faith and ordered yet another escalation of suffrage terrorism despite Sylvia's call for a truce. Indeed, between January and July 1914 over 100 buildings were set on fire by "suffragette" guerrillas who now proudly called themselves "Outragettes." Pankhurst pointed out to the government that if it received no cooperation from the WSPU it had only itself to blame.

A new kind of woman has been created by the present Government, … the Outragette. She began simply as one asking that women should have votes. Later she became a Suffragette and then a Militant, and finally, … an Outragette, a window-smasher, a rioter, wrecker and incendiary.

The outbreak of World War I in Europe in 1914 delayed what many believed would be a showdown between the government and the WSPU. Emmeline Pankhurst certainly believed that the vote for women was nearly won when war was declared in 1914. Not only were scores of dedicated women prepared to escalate the violence even further, they also were prepared to add thirst to their hunger strikes, a tactic which they understood would lead inevitably to their deaths. As Emmeline explained on a visit to America in December 1913, "Now, I want to say to you who think women cannot succeed, we have brought the government of England to this position, that it has to face this alternative: either women are to be killed or women are to have the vote…. Now that is the outcome of our civil war." The London Times shared this opinion when it stated in 1914 that "the only alternative to votes for women was death for the advocates of votes for women." Emmeline, Christabel, and Sylvia Pankhurst also shared the belief that no British government could survive the deaths of a substantial number of prominent British women. Whether or not they were correct, they certainly believed that victory was the inevitable outcome of their struggle. Therefore, once war on Germany was declared, ardent WSPU suffrage guerrillas transformed themselves into super-patriots almost overnight on orders from Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.

Christabel soon returned from France under a political amnesty, and The Suffragette, proclaiming itself to be "Second to none in Patriotism," transformed itself into a war paper. To emphasize that women's suffrage was officially on the back burner for the duration of the war, on October 15, 1915, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst changed the name of The Suffragette to Britannia, and WSPU members undertook a variety of war work such as organizing a spectacular march in 1916 to support women's right to work in war industries. In 1915, Emmeline took on a very different type of war work when she adopted four war orphans who were, by and large, to be cared for by professional governesses. Only Sylvia and Adela remained true to their father's socialist and pacifist principles and violently opposed the war. Emmeline Pankhurst was so disgusted by Sylvia's behavior that she telegraphed WSPU headquarters, "Strongly repudiate Sylvia's foolish and unpatriotic conduct; I regret I cannot prevent use of [Pankhurst] name."

Although Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst co-founded the Women's Party in 1917, a party which supposedly combined conservative politics with feminist and suffrage activity, suffrage demonstrations were suspended for the duration of hostilities. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly true that the war itself was instrumental in securing votes for women. The massive participation of women in the war economy and in auxiliary military services either convinced many politicians that women deserved full citizenship or it provided a convenient justification for politicians to change their position on women's suffrage without appearing to back down to pressure. Moreover, the government could have no doubt that if votes for women were not granted, guerrilla activity would resume but this time it would be carried out by women who had unselfishly suspended working for their own cause to serve their country. And the Pankhursts probably were correct in assuming that no government which allowed a substantial number of prominent women patriots to die in prison from starvation, water deprivation, or forcible feeding would be able to govern. For whatever reason, women were enfranchised in January 1918, the last year of the war. Although women were given the right to vote at age 30 while men could vote at 25, this was less of a patriarchal conspiracy than an attempt to even out the gender balance in the British electorate, a result of the large number of men killed during the Great War. (This inequity was rectified in 1928 in the so-called "Flapper Law" which made the voting age the same for both sexes.)

While Emmeline Pankhurst seldom was actively involved in feminist organizations championing women's causes in the postwar era, she often spoke out on a variety of women's issues. In particular, she demanded that all barriers against women's employment in industry be removed, and she vocally condemned protective legislation for women in industry on the grounds that it was punitive, discriminatory, and paternalistic.

In 1918, after the war, Pankhurst aided in her daughter Christabel's unsuccessful attempt to win a parliamentary seat, spoke out in favor of a strict embargo on almost all non-Anglo-Saxon immigration to Britain, and then moved to Canada. She made a living there and in the United States by lecturing on behalf of social hygiene. In 1922, she joined the National Council for Combatting Venereal Disease (renamed the Canadian Social Hygiene Council in 1923) as its chief lecturer and even began the process of adopting Canadian citizenship. Although she thought she would be happier in North America than in England, in 1924 she sailed to Bermuda where she spent a year before returning to Europe.

Financial considerations precluded her caring for all four of her adopted "war babies," so she found wealthy families for two of them and took the others to the French Riviera where, along with Christabel, she opened the English Teashop of Good Hope, a British-style tea room in Jean-les-Pins. It was no more successful than her earlier business enterprises, and, in 1926, she returned to England where she joined the Conservative Party, and agreed to stand for Parliament in the 1928 election as a candidate from the Whitechapel district of London. However, in the midst of the campaign her health deteriorated rapidly and she died of jaundice on June 14, 1928, in London. Some historians believe that the weakening of her constitution through repeated episodes of forcible feeding over several years hastened her death. During her last weeks of life, Pankhurst was overjoyed to get a letter from her estranged daughter Adela, seeking reconciliation and announcing she had renounced Marxism and embraced the British Empire. Nonetheless, she emphatically refused to forgive her estranged daughter Sylvia and neither corresponded with her nor lifted her familial excommunication long enough to grant Sylvia's request to visit her deathbed. Ironically, Emmeline Pankhurst's funeral was the only time after the suffrage campaign ended that Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst met in person.

A portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst by artist Georgina Brackenbury , a former suffragist, hangs in the British National Gallery. In 1930, a bronze statue of her created by sculptor A.G. Walker (which looks very much like the Brackenbury portrait) was erected in her memory in Victoria Tower Gardens overlooking the houses of Parliament that she helped open to women. A replica of the Walker statue later was erected in Toronto, Ontario.


Garner, Les. Stepping Stones to Women's Liberty: Feminist Ideas in the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1900–1918. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1984.

Kamm, Josephine. The Story of Emmeline Pankhurst. NY: Meredith, 1968.

Liddington, Jill, and Jill Norris. One Hand Tied Behind Us: The Rise of the Women's Suffrage Movement. London: Virago, 1984.

Mitchell, David. The Fighting Pankhursts. NY: Macmillan, 1967.

——. Women on the Warpath. London: Jonathan Cape, 1966.

Pankhurst, Christabel. Unshackled: The Story of How We Won the Vote. Ed. by Frederick W. Pethick-Lawrence. London: Hutchinson, 1959.

Pankhurst, Emmeline. My Own Story. NY: Hearst's International, 1914 (London: Virago, reprint, 1979).

Pankhurst, Estelle Sylvia. Life of Emmeline Pankhurst: The Suffragette Struggle for Women's Citizenship. London: T.W. Laurie, 1935.

——. The Suffragette: The History of the Women's Militant Suffrage Movement 1905–1910. London: Gay and Hancock, 1911.

——. The Suffragette Movement: An Intimate Account of Persons and Ideals. London: Longmans, Green, 1932.

Rosen, Andrew. Rise Up, Women! The Militant Campaign of the Women's Social and Political Union 1903–1914. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974.

Schneir, Miriam. Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings. NY: Vintage Books, 1972.

suggested reading:

Barker, Dudley. "Emmeline Pankhurst," in Prominent Edwardians. NY: Atheneum, 1969.

Dangerfield, George. The Strange Death of Liberal England 1910–1914, c. 1935 (NY: Capricorn Books, reprint, 1961 [Dangerfield's interpretation of the British Women's Suffrage movement, based upon Sylvia's interpretation of it, became the standard source on the movement for at least a generation]).

Kent, Susan Kingsley. Sex and Suffrage in Britain, 1860–1914. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Tickner, Lisa. The Spectacle of Women: Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign 1907–1914. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

related media:

"Shoulder to Shoulder," produced by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), based on the documentary book of the same name compiled and edited by Midge MacKenzie , was shown in the United States as a 6-part series on "Masterpiece Theater," 1988. The episodes are titled, "The Pankhurst Family," "Annie Kenney," "Lady Constance Lytton," "Christabel Pankhurst," "Outrage," and "Sylvia Pankhurst." While Emmeline Pankhurst is featured in all 6 parts, she dominates Episodes 1 and 5. Like the book, the documentary accepts Sylvia Pankhurst's interpretation of suffrage history rather than that of her mother and sister Christabel.


The British Library in London has copies of the pamphlets and speeches of the Pankhursts and copies of WSPU journals including long runs of The Suffragette and Votes for Women.

Correspondence relating to the years before the WSPU moved to London in 1906 can be found in the Manchester Central Library in Manchester, England.

The Museum of London holds many WSPU papers and records. Concerning the Pankhursts, it holds a good deal of their correspondence with one another and with other women's suffrage leaders in the collection "The Suffragette Fellowship."

collections of published documents relating to the pankhursts:

Available on microfiche are collections from the "Fawcett Society Archives on Women's Studies" at the City of London Polytechnic (these contain letter collections which include Pankhurst contributions and periodicals connected with a variety of women's suffrage organizations; they also may be ordered through Norman Ross Publishing).

The bulk of Sylvia Pankhurst's papers, including correspondence with her family, is deposited in the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. However, most of it is available on microfilm under the title "Women, Suffrage and Politics: The Papers of Sylvia Pankhurst, 1882–1960." The 37-reel collection is available from Adam Matthew Publications through Norman Ross Publishing in New York.

Marcus, Jane, ed. Suffrage and the Pankhursts. London and NY: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987 (except for one selection by WSPU leader Frederick W. Pethick-Lawrence written in 1908, "The Trial of the Suffragette Leaders," this book is composed entirely of the text of articles and speeches by Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst concerning various aspects of the women's suffrage campaign).

Pankhurst, E. Sylvia. A Sylvia Pankhurst Reader. Ed. by Kathryn Dodd. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1993 (this collection of Sylvia Pankhurst's speeches, articles, and excerpts from her longer works, contains a section on the suffrage era but concentrates on the post-1914 period).

Two excellent collections of women's suffrage documents are available on microfilm from Research Publications International. The first, titled "Fighting for the Vote: the Suffrage Fellowship" is available in 14 reels. It contains papers of both the WSPU and the WFL as well as personal papers of several key suffragist leaders. The second, titled "Struggle and Triumph: Women's Suffrage in Britain 1895–1920" is available in 31 reels and contains the papers of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, the Parliamentary Committee for Women's Suffrage and the Manchester League for Woman's Suffrage as well as an extensive newspaper-clipping file. A third document collection from Research Publications contains 91 reels of sources on women's participation in the Great War under the title "A Change in Attitude: Women, War and Society 1914–1918."

Nancy Ellen Ellen , Associate Professor of History and Director of Women's Studies, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee