Pankhurst Centre

Pankhurst Centre

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The Pankhurst Centre in Manchester is a community centre and museum dedicated to Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragette movement of the early 20th century. Situated in the house where Pankhurst lived for around a decade, the centre brings to life the movement in the very building it began.

Pankhurst Centre history

Emmeline Pankhurst and her family first moved to 62 Nelson Street in 1898 after the death of her husband, Dr Richard Pankhurst. She was given a paid position as Registrar of Births and Deaths in Chorlton where she soon gained an insight into the poor conditions suffered by women in the area, and the stark inequalities present between men and women.

In 1903, after a number of suffrage bills failed to pass through Parliament, Pankhurst established the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). This organisation was only open to women and focused on a more militant approach to achieving women’s suffrage, with their first meeting taking place in the parlour of Pankhurst’s home on 10 October of that year.

All three of Pankhurst’s daughters were involved in the fight for women’s suffrage – Christabel, Adela, and Sylvia – and lived with her at 62 Nelson Street. They spent a number of years operating from the house there until in 1907, Pankhurst sold it to begin an itinerant lifestyle. She thus moved from place to place to deliver speeches and join marches, staying with friends an in hotels carrying a small collection of her possessions in a suitcase.

On 11 October 1987 – the 84th anniversary of the first Suffragettes meeting in 1903 – the Pankhurst Centre was opened by Helen Pankhurst, Emmeline Pankhurst’s great-granddaughter, and Barbara Castle, one of the longest-serving female MPs in British history.

Pankhurst Centre today

Today residing at 60-62 Nelson Street, the Pankhurst Centre is the headquarters of Manchester Women’s Aid and serves as a female community centre and museum.

The Pankhurst Parlour hosts a memorial to the suffragette movement and is furnished in the Edwardian style as it would have been when the Pankhursts lived there. The permanent ‘At Home with the Pankhurst Family’ exhibition explores in more depth the lives of the radical family themselves, and provides a fascinating look into their roles in the wider movement.

In 2018, a crowd-funded garden also opened at the site on the centenary of women achieving the vote, which today provides a pleasant setting for reflection on the hard-fought journey towards gender equality.

Getting to the Pankhurst Centre

The Pankhurst Centre is located in Manchester on Nelson Street, just off the A34 (Upper Brook Street). Parking is available at the nearby NCP / Manchester Royal Infirmary car park on Grafton Street, a short walk away.

The Oxford Road and Piccadilly train stations are around a 30-minute walk to the site, while a number of bus services alight at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, either on Upper Brook Street or Grafton Street, both less than 5-minutes to the site.

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline was born in 1858 in Manchester, which, in the nineteenth century, was a hot-bed of radical and liberal thinking, to a politically active family, The Gouldens. Her father, Robert, was keenly interested in reform, her grandfather had been present at the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 and her grandmother had worked with the Anti-Corn League. Her parents were supporters of movement for women’s suffrage and in her early teens her mother took her along to her first women’s suffrage meeting, where Emmeline was enthralled by the speaker, suffragist Lydia Becker.

In 1879, at the age of 21, Emmeline married the older Dr Richard Pankhurst, a barrister who advocated women’s suffrage, educational reform and freedom of speech. She served with her husband on the committee which promoted the Married Women’s Property Act and at the same time was a member of the Manchester Suffrage Committee. Between 1880 and 1889 the Pankhursts had five children three girls - Christabel, Estelle Sylvia and Adela – and two boys – Francis Henry who died in 1888 from diphtheria and Henry Francis, named in honour of his deceased brother, who also later died.

In 1889, by now living in the more affluent Russell Square, London, Emmeline helped in forming the radical Women’s Franchise League. In addition to women’s suffrage it supported equal rights for women in the areas of divorce and inheritance . It also advocated trade unionism and sought alliances with socialist organisations. A lthough the league was discontinued after a few years, Emmeline remained a liberal until 1892 when she joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP).

In 1893 the Pankhursts returned to Manchester and Emmeline began to work with several political organisations, distinguishing herself for the first time as an activist in her own right and gaining respect in the community. As a Poor Law Guardian she was appalled by the conditions she witnessed first-hand in the Manchester workhouse and immediately set about improving them.

When her husband died in 1898, Emmeline was left with a significant amount of debt, but in 1903 her interest in women’s suffrage was reawakened by the enthusiasm of her daughter, Christabel. Frustrated by the lack of progress from other organisations, Emmeline decided more direct action was required and held the first meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), an organisation dedicated to ‘deeds, not words’ at her house at 62 Nelson Street, Manchester.

By 1906 Emmeline and her union were turning to increasingly militant tactics in order to raise awareness. Acts of disobedience continued and more arrests followed, including Emmeline who was imprisoned several times. The Suffragettes, as they had now become known, were becoming increasingly extreme and their campaigning more widespread. Churches and MPs’ homes were burnt down, windows were smashed in Oxford Street and Oxted Station was even bombed. Many of those arrested began going on hunger strike to protest at not being given political prisoner status and faced the indignity of being force-fed.

With the outbreak of the First World War Emmeline and Christabel called a halt to all WSPU militant suffrage activities and a truce with the government was established, with all WSPU prisoners being released. Emmeline put the same energy and determination she had previously applied to women’s suffrage into patriotic advocacy of the war effort. She organised rallies, toured constantly delivering speeches, and lobbied the government to help women enter the work force while men were overseas fighting, even organising a parade of 30,000 women to encourage employers to take them on in industry. A supporter of conscription, she also became a prominent figure in the white feather movement (which handed white feathers, a sign of cowardice, to men in civilian dress to shame them into enlisting). Another issue which concerned her greatly at the time was the plight of so-called war babies , children born to single mothers whose fathers were on the front lines. Emmeline established an adoption home at Campden Hill designed to employ the Montessori method of childhood education. Although this was turned over to Princess Alice due to lack of funds, Emmeline adopted four children herself.

Pankhurst transformed the structure of the WSPU into the Women’s Party , which was dedicated to promoting women’s equality in public life. In her later years, she became concerned with what she perceived as the menace posed by Bolshevism and joined the Conservative Party In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30. Emmeline died on 14 June 1928, just weeks before women were granted equal voting rights with men (at 21).

Christabel Pankhurst

Christabel was the oldest child of Emmeline and Richard and from an early age was absorbed in politics. Educated at home until the age of 13, she was sent to complete her education in Switzerland following a spell at Manchester High School for Girls. When her father died in 1898 she returned home to assist her mother with looking after her brothers and sisters and help with work.

In 1903 Christabel co-founded the WSPU with her mother, Emmeline, with whom she enjoyed a special relationship. She obtained a law degree from the University of Manchester, but as a woman was unable to practise as a lawyer, an issue against which she entered an impassioned protest. She very effectively applied her legal knowledge in speeches and pamphlets to highlight inequality and injustice experienced by women and she also organised large-scale processions and demonstrations in favour of ‘Votes for Women’, attracting thousands of supporters to the cause.

The Suffragettes were established in 1905 when the WSPU’s militant movement was formally inaugurated when Christabel and Annie Kenney achieved widespread publicity and were imprisoned following their disruption of speeches being made by Winston Churchill and Sir Edward Grey at a political meeting in Manchester. From this point on Christabel advocated a campaign of civil disobedience which, by the outbreak of the First World War had escalated to include arson, bombing and attacks on works of art in public galleries. In 1906 Christabel moved to the London headquarters of the WSPU, where she was appointed its organising secretary and from 1912 to 1914 she directed the union’ s militant actions from exile in Paris, where she was living to escape imprisonment under the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’. Compelled to return to England with the outbreak of World War One, Christabel was again arrested and engaged in a hunger strike , ultimately serving only 30 days of a three-year sentence.

Like her mother, Christabel supported the war effort against Germany, particularly advocating the military conscription of men and the industrial conscription of women into national service, and was a prominent figure in the white feather movement. She also wrote a book called The Great Scourge and How to End It arguing that sexually transmitted diseases could be combated by equality between the sexes.

In 1918 Christabel was narrowly defeated in the general election when she stood as a candidate for the Women’s Party in alliance with David Lloyd George’s Conservation Party coalition. She moved to the United States in 1921 where she worked as an evangelist for the Second Adventist movement, before returning to the UK in the 1930s. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1936 before leaving for the United States again at the start of the Second World War. She died in 1958 at the age of 77.

Sylvia Pankhurst

The second eldest daughter of Emmeline and Richard, Sylvia (born Estelle Sylvia), like her sisters, attended Manchester High School for Girls and was active within the WSPU . She trained at the Manchester School of Art , before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in South Kensington in 1900.

In 1906 she began working full-time for the WSPU, eventually becoming honorary secretary and channelling her gift for art into designing posters, banners and badges.

In the years before the break out of war, Sylvia was one of the chief figures among the militant suffragettes and was imprisoned numerous times, but ended up following a different trajectory which eventually caused a deep rift with her mother and Christabel. Moved by the plight of the poverty-stricken women she encountered in Bow when she moved there in 1912 to lead the WSPU’s East London campaign, she came to see the struggle for women to have the vote as just one strand in a larger struggle for equality. When she began to connect women’s suffrage to other issues, the WSPU refused to tolerate it.

In contrast to Emmeline and Christabel, Sylvia had also retained an affiliation with the labour movement, so in 1914, she broke away from the WSPU to set up the socialist East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS). Over the years the organisation evolved politically and changed its name accordingly, first to Women’s Suffrage Federation and then to the Workers’ Socialist Federation (WSF) . Unlike the WSPU, the ELFS was built on Sylvia's own principles and, believing in universal suffrage, men were allowed to join. In direct contrast to her mother and sister, Sylvia was a pacifist and opposed to the war and she was horrified to see her family members actively support compulsory conscription. She was, however, extremely active during the war, opening mother and baby clinics and organising practical assistance and education in the East End. She established a milk distribution centre for babies, many of whom were too ill to digest their food and opened a clinic, staffed by a doctor, who treated patients without charge. As wartime food shortages took hold the ELFS also opened a chain of cost-price restaurants - in 1915 they were serving about 400 meals daily - and a toy factory was established as an alternative to tiny failing workshops where women were paid a pittance. Toys were no longer being imported from Germany, so Sylvia’s factory employed 59 women to fill the gap. She also worked to defend soldiers’ wives rights to decent allowances while their husbands were away, both practically by setting up legal advice centres and politically by running campaigns to oblige the government to take into account the poverty of soldiers’ wives.

Attaching herself to the extreme left, she continued to find herself in trouble with the police upon occasion, and hosted the inaugural meeting of the Communist Party. However, she was later expelled from the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) when she revolted after being asked to hand over the Workers Dreadnought, the newspaper she had founded, to the party. In later years Sylvia drifted away from communist politics, but remained involved in movements connected with anti-fascism and anti-colonialism. In 1936 she became involved in the fight against the Italian evasion of Ethiopia, and moved there in 1956 on the invitation of its Emperor, Haile Selassie. She died in Addis Ababa in 1960 at the age of 78 and was given a full state funeral as an ‘honorary Ethiopian’.

Adela Pankhurst

The youngest of the Pankhurst daughters, Adela also threw herself into the suffragette cause. As a militant suffragette and a n organiser for the WSPU, Adela was imprisoned several times and went on hunger strike, but eventually withdrew from the campaign exhausted.

Like Sylvia, she made no secret of her socialist views and, as a pacifist, was not keen on the WSPU's militant strategies. After becoming estranged from her mother and Christabel, Adela left the WSPU but Emmeline was concerned that she might publicly criticise the organisation, so she bought her daughter a one-way ticket to Australia. A dela was given £20, some warm clothes, a letter of introduction to Melbourne feminist Vida Goldstein and a one-way boat ticket. She never saw her mother or sisters again.

Having settled in Australia in 1920 she founded the Australian Communist Party with her husband, trade unionist Tom Walsh. Later, however, she became disillusioned with communism and abandoned left-wing politics altogether – even expressing some sympathy for the fascist movements in Nazi Germany and Italy. She founded the Women’s Guild of Empire, a Christian organisation against Communism and in favour of preserving Australia’s place in the British Empire. Continuing to drift more to the political right, o n the outbreak of the Second World War she was asked to resign from the Women’s Guild . The following month she caused a stir when she and her husband went on a goodwill mission to Japan and i n March 1942 she was interned for her pro-Japanese views. She was released after more than a year in custody, just before her husband’s death in April 1943. After the war Adela did not play an active role in politics. She died in Australia in 1961.


Women's suffrage Edit

Although the Isle of Man (a British Crown dependency) had enfranchised women who owned property to vote in parliamentary (Tynwald) elections in 1881, New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant all women the right to vote in 1893, when women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in all parliamentary elections. [5] Women in South Australia achieved the same right and became the first to obtain the right to stand for parliament in 1895. [8] In the United States, white women over the age of 21 were allowed to vote in the western territories of Wyoming from 1869 and in Utah from 1870.

British suffragettes Edit

In 1865 John Stuart Mill was elected to Parliament on a platform that included votes for women, and in 1869 he published his essay in favour of equality of the sexes The Subjection of Women. Also in 1865, a women's discussion group, The Kensington Society, was formed. Following discussions on the subject of women's suffrage, the society formed a committee to draft a petition and gather signatures, which Mill agreed to present to Parliament once they had gathered 100 signatures. [9] In October 1866, amateur scientist Lydia Becker attended a meeting of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science held in Manchester and heard one of the organisors of the petition, Barbara Bodichon, read a paper entitled Reasons for the Enfranchisement of Women. Becker was inspired to help gather signatures around Manchester and to join the newly formed Manchester committee. Mill presented the petition to Parliament in 1866, by which time the supporters had gathered 1499 signatures, including those of Florence Nightingale, Harriet Martineau, Josephine Butler and Mary Somerville. [10]

In March 1867, Becker wrote an article for the Contemporary Review, in which she said:

It surely will not be denied that women have, and ought to have, opinions of their own on subjects of public interest, and on the events which arise as the world wends on its way. But if it be granted that women may, without offence, hold political opinions, on what ground can the right be withheld of giving the same expression or effect to their opinions as that enjoyed by their male neighbours? [11]

Two further petitions were presented to parliament in May 1867 and Mill also proposed an amendment to the 1867 Reform Act to give women the same political rights as men, but the amendment was treated with derision and defeated by 196 votes to 73. [12]

The Manchester Society for Women's suffrage was formed in January 1867, when Jacob Bright, Rev. S. A. Steinthal, Mrs. Gloyne, Max Kyllman and Elizabeth Wolstenholme met at the house of Dr. Louis Borchardt. Lydia Becker was made Secretary of the Society in February 1867 and Dr. Richard Pankhurst was one of the earliest members of the Executive Committee. [13] An 1874 speaking event in Manchester organised by Becker, was attended by 14-year-old Emmeline Goulden, who was to become an ardent campaigner for women's rights, and later married Dr Pankhurst becoming known as Emmeline Pankhurst. [14]

During the summer of 1880, Becker visited the Isle of Man to address five public meetings on the subject of women's suffrage to audiences mainly composed of women. These speeches instilled in the Manx women a determination to secure the franchise, and on 31 January 1881, women on the island who owned property in their own right were given the vote. [15]

Formation of the WSPU Edit

In Manchester, the Women's Suffrage Committee had been formed in 1867 to work with the Independent Labour Party (ILP) to secure votes for women, but, although the local ILP were very supportive, nationally the party were more interested in securing the franchise for working-class men and refused to make women's suffrage a priority. In 1897, the Manchester Women's Suffrage committee had merged with the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) but Emmeline Pankhurst, who was a member of the original Manchester committee, and her eldest daughter Christabel had become impatient with the ILP, and on 10 October 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst held a meeting at her home in Manchester to form a breakaway group, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). From the outset, the WSPU was determined to move away from the staid campaign methods of NUWSS and instead take more positive action: [16]

It was on October 10, 1903 that I invited a number of women to my house in Nelson Street, Manchester, for purposes of organisation. We voted to call our new society the Women's Social and Political Union, partly to emphasise its democracy, and partly to define it object as political rather than propagandist. We resolved to limit our membership exclusively to women, to keep ourselves absolutely free from party affiliation, and to be satisfied with nothing but action on our question. 'Deeds, not words' was to be our permanent motto.

The term "suffragette" was first used in 1906 as a term of derision by the journalist Charles E. Hands in the London Daily Mail to describe activists in the movement for women's suffrage, in particular members of the WSPU. [18] [19] [20] But the women he intended to ridicule embraced the term, saying "suffraGETtes" (hardening the 'g'), implying not only that they wanted the vote, but that they intended to 'get' it. [21] The non-militant suffragists found favour in the press, as they were not hoping to get the franchise through 'violence, crime, arson and open rebellion'. [22]

At a political meeting in Manchester in 1905, Christabel Pankhurst and millworker, Annie Kenney, disrupted speeches by prominent Liberals Winston Churchill and Sir Edward Grey, asking where Churchill and Grey stood with regards to women's political rights. At a time when political meetings were only attended by men and speakers were expected to be given the courtesy of expounding their views without interruption, the audience were outraged, and when the women unfurled a "Votes for Women" banner they were both arrested for a technical assault on a policeman. When Pankhurst and Kenney appeared in court they both refused to pay the fine imposed, preferring to go to prison in order to gain publicity for their cause. [23]

In July 1908 the WSPU hosted a large demonstration in Heaton Park, near Manchester with speakers on 13 separate platforms including Emmeline, Christabel and Adela Pankhurst. According to the Manchester Guardian:

Friends of the women suffrage movement are entitled to reckon the great demonstration at Heaton Park yesterday, arranged by the Women's Social and Political Union, as somewhat of a triumph. With fine weather as an ally the women suffragists were able to bring together an immense body of people. These people were not all sympathisers with the object, and much service to the cause must have been rendered by merely collecting so many people and talking over the subject with them. The organisation, too, was creditable to the promoters. The police were few and inconspicuous. The speakers went by special [tram]car to the Bury Old Road entrance, and were escorted by a few police to several platforms. Here the escorts waited till the speaking was over, and then accompanied their respective charges back to the special car. There was little need, apparently, for the escort. Even the opponents of the suffrage claim who made themselves heard were perfectly friendly towards the speakers, and the only crowding about them as they left was that of curiosity on the part of those who wished to have a good look at the missioners in the cause. [24]

Stung by the stereotypical image of the strong minded woman in masculine clothes created by newspaper cartoonists, the suffragettes resolved to present a fashionable, feminine image when appearing in public. In 1908 the co-editor of the WSPU's newspaper, Votes for Women, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, designed the suffragettes' colour scheme of purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope. Fashionable London shops Selfridges and Liberty sold tricolour-striped ribbon for hats, rosettes, badges and belts, as well as coloured garments, underwear, handbags, shoes, slippers and toilet soap. [25] As membership of the WSPU grew it became fashionable for women to identify with the cause by wearing the colours, often discreetly in a small piece of jewellery or by carrying a heart-shaped vesta case [26] [25] and in December 1908 the London jewellers, Mappin & Webb, issued a catalogue of suffragette jewellery in time for the Christmas season. [27] Sylvia Pankhurst said at the time: "Many suffragists spend more money on clothes than they can comfortably afford, rather than run the risk of being considered outré, and doing harm to the cause". [25] In 1909 the WSPU presented specially commissioned pieces of jewellery to leading suffragettes, Emmeline Pankhurst and Louise Eates. [27]

The suffragettes also used other methods to publicise and raise money for the cause and from 1909, the "Pank-a-Squith" board game was sold by the WSPU. The name was derived from Pankhurst and the surname of Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, who was largely hated by the movement. The board game was set out in a spiral, and players were required to lead their suffragette figure from their home to parliament, past the obstacles faced from Prime Minister H. H. Asquith and the Liberal government. [28] Also in 1909, suffragettes Daisy Solomon and Elspeth McClelland tried an innovative method of potentially obtaining a meeting with Asquith by sending themselves by Royal Mail courier post however, Downing Street did not accept the parcel. [29]

Sophia Duleep Singh, the third daughter of the exiled Maharaja Duleep Singh, [30] had made a trip from her home in London to India, in 1903, to see the celebrations for the accession of King Edward VII as emperor of India and was shocked by the brutality of life under British rule. On her return to the UK in 1909, Singh became an ardent supporter of the cause, selling suffragette newspapers outside her apartment at Hampton Court Palace, refusing to pay taxes, fighting with police at protests and attacking the prime minister's car. [31] [32]

1912 was a turning point for the suffragettes, as they turned to using more militant tactics and began a window-smashing campaign. Some members of the WSPU, including Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and her husband Frederick, disagreed with this strategy but Christabel Pankhurst ignored their objections. In response to this, the Government ordered the arrest of the WSPU leaders and, although Christabel Pankhurst escaped to France, the Pethick-Lawrences were arrested, tried and sentenced to nine months' imprisonment. On their release, the Pethick-Lawrences began to speak out publicly against the window-smashing campaign, arguing that it would lose support for the cause, and eventually they were expelled from the WSPU. Having lost control of Votes for Women the WSPU began to publish their own newspaper under the title The Suffragette. [33]

The campaign was then escalated, with the suffragettes chaining themselves to railings, setting fire to post box contents, smashing windows and eventually detonating bombs, as part of a wider bombing campaign. [34] Some radical techniques used by the suffragettes were learned from Russian exiles from tsarism who had escaped to England. [35] In 1914, at least seven churches were bombed or set on fire across the United Kingdom, including Westminster Abbey, where an explosion aimed at destroying the 700-year-old Coronation Chair, only caused minor damage. [36] Places that wealthy people, typically men, frequented were also burnt and destroyed whilst left unattended so that there was little risk to life, including cricket pavilions, horse-racing pavilions, churches, castles and the second homes of the wealthy. They also burnt the slogan "Votes for Women" into the grass of golf couses. [37] Pinfold Manor in Surrey, which was being built for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, was targeted with two bombs on 19 February 1913, only one of which exploded, causing significant damage in her memoirs, Sylvia Pankhurst said that Emily Davison had carried out the attack. [37] There were 250 arson or destruction attacks in a six-month period in 1913 [37] and in April the newspapers reported "What might have been the most serious outrage yet perpetrated by the Suffragettes":

Policemen discovered inside the railings of the Bank of England a bomb timed to explode at midnight. It contained 3oz of powerful explosive, some metal, and a number of hairpins - the last named constituent, no doubt to make known the source of the intended sensation. The bomb was similar to that used in the attempt to blow up Oxted Railway Station. It contained a watch with attachment for explosion, but was clumsily fitted. If it had exploded when the streets were crowded a number of people would probably have been injured. [38]

There are reports in the Parliamentary Papers which include lists of the 'incendiary devices', explosions, artwork destruction (including an axe attack upon a painting of The Duke of Wellington in the National Gallery), arson attacks, window-breaking, postbox burning and telegraph cable cutting, that took place during the most militant years, from 1910 to 1914. [39] Both suffragettes and police spoke of a "Reign of Terror" newspaper headlines referred to "Suffragette Terrorism". [40]

One suffragette, Emily Davison, died under the King's horse, Anmer, at The Derby on 4 June 1913. It is debated whether she was trying to pull down the horse, attach a suffragette scarf or banner to it, or commit suicide to become a martyr to the cause. However, recent analysis of the film of the event suggests that she was merely trying to attach a scarf to the horse, and the suicide theory seems unlikely as she was carrying a return train ticket from Epsom and had holiday plans with her sister in the near future. [41]

Imprisonment Edit

In the early 20th century until the outbreak of World War I, approximately one thousand suffragettes were imprisoned in Britain. [42] Most early incarcerations were for public order offences and failure to pay outstanding fines. While incarcerated, suffragettes lobbied to be considered political prisoners with such a designation, suffragettes would be placed in the First Division as opposed to the Second or Third Division of the prison system, and as political prisoners would be granted certain freedoms and liberties not allotted to other prison divisions, such as being allowed frequent visits and being allowed to write books or articles. [43] Because of a lack of consistency between the different courts, suffragettes would not necessarily be placed in the First Division and could be placed in the Second or Third Division, which enjoyed fewer liberties. [44]

This cause was taken up by the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), a large organisation in Britain, that lobbied for women's suffrage led by militant suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. [45] The WSPU campaigned to get imprisoned suffragettes recognised as political prisoners. However, this campaign was largely unsuccessful. Citing a fear that the suffragettes becoming political prisoners would make for easy martyrdom, [46] and with thoughts from the courts and the Home Office that they were abusing the freedoms of the First Division to further the agenda of the WSPU, [47] suffragettes were placed in the Second Division, and in some cases the Third Division, in prisons, with no special privileges granted to them as a result. [48]

Hunger strikes and force-feeding Edit

Suffragettes were not recognised as political prisoners, and many of them staged hunger strikes while they were imprisoned. The first woman to refuse food was Marion Wallace Dunlop, a militant suffragette who was sentenced to a month in Holloway for vandalism in July 1909. [49] Without consulting suffragette leaders such as Pankhurst, [50] Dunlop refused food in protest at being denied political prisoner status. After a 92-hour hunger strike, and for fear of her becoming a martyr, [50] the Home Secretary Herbert Gladstone decided to release her early on medical grounds. [47] Dunlop's strategy was adopted by other suffragettes who were incarcerated. [51] It became common practice for suffragettes to refuse food in protest for not being designated as political prisoners, and as a result they would be released after a few days and could return to the "fighting line". [52]

After a public backlash regarding the prison status of suffragettes, the rules of the divisions were amended. In March 1910, Rule 243A was introduced by the Home Secretary Winston Churchill, allowing prisoners in the Second and Third Divisions to be allowed certain privileges of the First Division, provided they were not convicted of a serious offence, effectively ending hunger strikes for two years. [53] Hunger strikes began again when Pankhurst was transferred from the Second Division to the First Division, inciting the other suffragettes to demonstrate regarding their prison status. [54]

Militant suffragette demonstrations subsequently became more aggressive, [47] and the British Government took action. Unwilling to release all the suffragettes refusing food in prison, [51] in the autumn of 1909, the authorities began to adopt more drastic measures to manage the hunger-strikers. In September 1909, the Home Office became unwilling to release hunger-striking suffragettes before their sentence was served. [52] Suffragettes became a liability because, if they were to die in custody, the prison would be responsible for their death. Prisons began the practice of force-feeding the hunger strikers through a tube, most commonly via a nostril or stomach tube or a stomach pump. [51] Force-feeding had previously been practised in Britain but its use had been exclusively for patients in hospitals who were too unwell to eat or swallow food. Despite the practice being deemed safe by medical practitioners for sick patients, it posed health issues for the healthy suffragettes. [50]

The process of tube-feeding was strenuous without the consent of the hunger strikers, who were typically strapped down and force-fed via stomach or nostril tube, often with a considerable amount of force. [55] The process was painful, and after the practice was observed and studied by several physicians, it was deemed to cause both short-term damage to the circulatory system, digestive system and nervous system and long-term damage to the physical and mental health of the suffragettes. [56] Some suffragettes who were force-fed developed pleurisy or pneumonia as a result of a misplaced tube. [57] Women who had gone on hunger strike in prison received a Hunger Strike Medal from the WSPU on their release. [58]

Legislation Edit

In April 1913, Reginald McKenna of the Home Office passed the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913, or the Cat and Mouse Act as it was commonly known. The act made the hunger strikes legal, in that a suffragette would be temporarily released from prison when their health began to diminish, only to be readmitted when she regained her health to finish her sentence. [55] The act enabled the British Government to be absolved of any blame resulting from death or harm due to the self-starvation of the striker and ensured that the suffragettes would be too ill and too weak to participate in demonstrative activities while not in custody. [51] Most women continued hunger striking when they were readmitted to prison following their leave. [59] After the Act was introduced, force-feeding on a large scale was stopped and only women convicted of more serious crimes and considered likely to repeat their offences if released were force-fed. [60]

The Bodyguard Edit

In early 1913 and in response to the Cat and Mouse Act, the WSPU instituted a secret society of women known as the "Bodyguard" whose role was to physically protect Emmeline Pankhurst and other prominent suffragettes from arrest and assault. Known members included Katherine Willoughby Marshall, Leonora Cohen and Gertrude Harding Edith Margaret Garrud was their jujitsu trainer.

The origin of the "Bodyguard" can be traced to a WSPU meeting at which Garrud spoke. As suffragettes speaking in public increasingly found themselves the target of violence and attempted assaults, learning jujitsu was a way for women to defend themselves against angry hecklers. [61] Inciting incidents included Black Friday, during which a deputation of 300 suffragettes were physically prevented by police from entering the House of Commons, sparking a near-riot and allegations of both common and sexual assault. [62]

Members of the "Bodyguard" orchestrated the "escapes" of a number of fugitive suffragettes from police surveillance during 1913 and early 1914. They also participated in several violent actions against the police in defence of their leaders, notably including the "Battle of Glasgow" on 9 March 1914, when a group of about 30 Bodyguards brawled with about 50 police constables and detectives on the stage of St Andrew's Hall in Glasgow. The fight was witnessed by an audience of some 4500 people. [63]

At the commencement of World War I, the suffragette movement in Britain moved away from suffrage activities and focused on the war effort, and as a result, hunger strikes largely stopped. [64] In August 1914, the British Government released all prisoners who had been incarcerated for suffrage activities on an amnesty, [65] with Pankhurst ending all militant suffrage activities soon after. [66] The suffragettes' focus on war work turned public opinion in favour of their eventual partial enfranchisement in 1918. [67]

Women eagerly volunteered to take on many traditional male roles – leading to a new view of what women were capable of. The war also caused a split in the British suffragette movement the mainstream, represented by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's WSPU calling a ceasefire in their campaign for the duration of the war, while more radical suffragettes, represented by Sylvia Pankhurst's Women's Suffrage Federation continued the struggle.

The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, which had always employed "constitutional" methods, continued to lobby during the war years and compromises were worked out between the NUWSS and the coalition government. [68] On 6 February, the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed, enfranchising all men over 21 years of age and women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications, [69] [70] gaining the right to vote for about 8.4 million women. [70] In November 1918, the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 was passed, allowing women to be elected into parliament. [70] The Representation of the People Act 1928 extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21, granting women the vote on the same terms that men had gained ten years earlier. [71]

The 1918 general election, the first general election to be held after the Representation of the People Act 1918, was the first in which some women (property owners older than 30) could vote. At that election, the first woman to be elected an MP was Constance Markievicz but, in line with Sinn Féin abstentionist policy, she declined to take her seat in the British House of Commons. The first woman to do so was Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor, following a by-election in November 1919.

In the autumn of 1913 Emmeline Pankhurst had sailed to the US to embark on a lecture tour to publicise the message of the WSPU and to raise money for the treatment of her son, Harry, who was gravely ill. By this time the suffragettes' tactics of civil disorder were being used by American militants Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, both of whom had campaigned with the WSPU in London. As in the UK, the suffrage movement in America was divided into two disparate groups, with the National American Woman Suffrage Association representing the more militant campaign and the International Women's Suffrage Alliance taking a more cautious and pragmatic approach [72] Although the publicity surrounding Pankhurst's visit and the militant tactics used by her followers gave a welcome boost to the campaign, [73] the majority of women in the US preferred the more respected label of "suffragist" to the title "suffragette" adopted by the militants. [74]

Many suffragists at the time, and some historians since, have argued that the actions of the militant suffragettes damaged their cause. [75] Opponents at the time saw evidence that women were too emotional and could not think as logically as men. [76] [77] [78] [79] [80] Historians generally argue that the first stage of the militant suffragette movement under the Pankhursts in 1906 had a dramatic mobilising effect on the suffrage movement. Women were thrilled and supportive of an actual revolt in the streets. The membership of the militant WSPU and the older NUWSS overlapped and were mutually supportive. However, a system of publicity, Ensor argues, had to continue to escalate to maintain its high visibility in the media. The hunger strikes and force-feeding did that, but the Pankhursts refused any advice and escalated their tactics. They turned to systematic disruption of Liberal Party meetings as well as physical violence in terms of damaging public buildings and arson. Searle says the methods of the suffragettes harmed the Liberal Party but failed to advance women's suffrage. When the Pankhursts decided to stop their militancy at the start of the war and enthusiastically support the war effort, the movement split and their leadership role ended. Suffrage came four years later, but the feminist movement in Britain permanently abandoned the militant tactics that had made the suffragettes famous. [81] [82]

After Emmeline Pankhurst's death in 1928, money was raised to commission a statue, and on 6 March 1930 the statue in Victoria Tower Gardens was unveiled. A crowd of radicals, former suffragettes and national dignitaries gathered as former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin presented the memorial to the public. In his address, Baldwin declared: "I say with no fear of contradiction, that whatever view posterity may take, Mrs. Pankhurst has won for herself a niche in the Temple of Fame which will last for all time". [83] In 1929 a portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst was added to the National Portrait Gallery's collection. In 1987 her former home at 62 Nelson Street, Manchester, the birthplace of the WSPU, and the adjoining Edwardian villa (no. 60) were opened as the Pankhurst Centre, a women-only space and museum dedicated to the suffragette movement. [84] Christabel Pankhurst was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1936, and after her death in 1958 a permanent memorial was installed next to the statue of her mother. [85] The memorial to Christabel Pankhurst consists of a low stone screen flanking her mother's statue with a bronze medallion plaque depicting her profile at one end of the screen paired with a second plaque depicting the "prison brooch" or "badge" of the WSPU at the other end. [86] The unveiling of this dual memorial was performed on 13 July 1959 by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Kilmuir. [87]

In 1903, the Australian suffragist Vida Goldstein adopted the WSPU colours for her campaign for the Senate in 1910 but got them slightly wrong since she thought that they were purple, green and lavender. Goldstein had visited England in 1911 at the behest of the WSPU. Her speeches around the country drew huge crowds and her tour was touted as "the biggest thing that has happened in the women movement for sometime in England". [88] The correct colours were used for her campaign for Kooyong in 1913 and also for the flag of the Women's Peace Army, which she established during World War I to oppose conscription. During International Women's Year in 1975 the BBC series about the suffragettes, Shoulder to Shoulder, was screened across Australia and Elizabeth Reid, Women's Adviser to Prime Minister Gough Whitlam directed that the WSPU colours be used for the International Women's Year symbol. They were also used for a first-day cover and postage stamp released by Australia Post in March 1975. The colours have since been adopted by government bodies such as the National Women's Advisory Council and organisations such as Women's Electoral Lobby and other women's services such as domestic violence refuges and are much in evidence each year on International Women's day. [89]

The colours of green and heliotrope (purple) were commissioned into a new coat of arms for Edge Hill University in Lancashire in 2006, symbolising the university's early commitment to the equality of women through its beginnings as a women-only college. [90]

During the 1960s the memory of the suffragettes was kept alive in the public consciousness by portrayals in film, such as the character Mrs Winifred Banks in the 1964 Disney musical film Mary Poppins who sings the song Sister Suffragette and Maggie DuBois in the 1965 film The Great Race. In 1974 The BBC TV series Shoulder to Shoulder portraying events in the British militant suffrage movement, concentrating on the lives of members of the Pankhurst family was shown around the world. And in the 21st century the story of the suffragettes was brought to a new generation in the BBC television series Up the Women, the 2015 graphic novel trilogy Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst's Amazons and the 2015 film Suffragette.

In February 2019, female Democrat members of the US Congress dressed predominantly in white when attending President Trump's State of the Union address. The choice of one of the colours associated with the suffragettes was to signify the women's solidarity. [91]


Emmeline Goulden [12] was born on Sloan Street in the Moss Side district of Manchester on 15 July 1858, at school her teachers called her Emily, a name she preferred to be called. [12] [13] Although her birth certificate says otherwise, she believed and later claimed her birthday was a day earlier, on Bastille Day (14 July). Most biographies, including those written by her daughters, repeat this claim. Feeling a kinship with the female revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille, she said in 1908: "I have always thought that the fact that I was born on that day had some kind of influence over my life." [14] [15] The family into which she was born had been steeped in political agitation for generations her mother, Sophia, was a Manx woman from the Isle of Man who was descended from men who were charged with social unrest and slander. [16] In 1881 the Isle of Man was the first country to grant women the right to vote in national elections. [17] [18] Her father, Robert Goulden, came from a modest Manchester merchant family with its own background of political activity. Robert's mother worked with the Anti-Corn Law League, and his father was present at the Peterloo massacre, when cavalry charged and broke up a crowd demanding parliamentary reform. [19]

The Gouldens' first son died at the age of three, but they had 10 other children Emmeline was the eldest of five daughters. Soon after her birth, the family moved to Seedley, where her father had co-founded a small business. He was also active in local politics, serving for several years on the Salford town council. He was an enthusiastic supporter of dramatic organisations including the Manchester Athenaeum and the Dramatic Reading Society. He owned a theatre in Salford for several years, where he played the leads in several Shakespeare plays. Goulden absorbed an appreciation of drama and theatrics from her father, which she used later in social activism. [20] The Gouldens included their children in social activism. As part of the movement to end U.S. slavery, Robert welcomed American abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher when he visited Manchester. Sophia used the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, written by Beecher's sister Harriet Beecher Stowe, as a regular source of bedtime stories for her sons and daughters. In her 1914 autobiography My Own Story, Goulden recalls visiting a bazaar at a young age to collect money for newly freed slaves in the U.S. [21]

Emmeline began to read books when she was very young, with one source claiming that she was reading as early as the age of three. [22] She read the Odyssey at the age of nine and enjoyed the works of John Bunyan, especially his 1678 story The Pilgrim's Progress. [23] Another of her favourite books was Thomas Carlyle's three-volume treatise The French Revolution: A History, and she later said the work "remained all [her] life a source of inspiration". [23] Despite her avid consumption of books, however, she was not given the educational advantages enjoyed by her brothers. Their parents believed that the girls needed most to learn the art of "making home attractive" and other skills desired by potential husbands. [24] The Gouldens deliberated carefully about future plans for their sons' education, but they expected their daughters to marry young and avoid paid work. [25] Although they supported women's suffrage and the general advancement of women in society, the Gouldens believed their daughters incapable of the goals of their male peers. Feigning sleep one evening as her father came into her bedroom, Goulden heard him pause and say to himself, "What a pity she wasn't born a lad." [24]

It was through her parents' interest in women's suffrage that Goulden was first introduced to the subject. Her mother received and read the Women's Suffrage Journal, and Goulden grew fond of its editor Lydia Becker. [26] At the age of 14, she returned home from school one day to find her mother on her way to a public meeting about women's voting rights. After learning that Becker would be speaking, she insisted on attending. Goulden was enthralled by Becker's address and later wrote, "I left the meeting a conscious and confirmed suffragist." [27] A year later, she arrived in Paris to attend the École Normale de Neuilly. The school provided its female pupils with classes in chemistry and bookkeeping, in addition to traditionally feminine arts such as embroidery. Her roommate was Noémie, the daughter of Victor Henri Rochefort, who had been imprisoned in New Caledonia for his support of the Paris Commune. The girls shared tales of their parents' political exploits and remained good friends for years. [28] Goulden was so fond of Noémie and the school that she returned with her sister Mary Jane as a parlour boarder after graduating. Noémie had married a Swiss painter and quickly found a suitable French husband for her English friend. When Robert refused to provide a dowry for his daughter, the man withdrew his offer of marriage and Goulden returned, miserable, to Manchester. [29]

In the autumn of 1878, at the age of 20, Goulden met and began a relationship with Richard Pankhurst, a barrister who had advocated women's suffrage – and other causes, including freedom of speech and education reform – for years. Richard, 44 years old when they met, had earlier resolved to remain a bachelor to better serve the public. Their mutual affection was powerful, but the couple's happiness was diminished by the death of his mother the following year. Sophia Jane Goulden chastised her daughter for "throwing herself" at Richard [31] and advised her without success to exhibit more aloofness. Emmeline suggested to Richard that they avoid the legal formalities of marriage by entering into a free union he objected on the grounds that she would be excluded from political life as an unmarried woman. He noted that his colleague Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy had faced social condemnation before she formalised her marriage to Ben Elmy. Emmeline Goulden agreed, and they had their wedding in St Luke's Church, Pendleton on 18 December 1879. [32]

During the 1880s, living at the Goulden cottage with her parents in Seedley, then at 1 Drayton Terrace Chester Rd Old Trafford (1881 census Stretford) opposite Richards parents home. Christobel was born there in Sep 1880,Estelle Sylvia in 1882, and Francis Henry (Frank) in1884. Emmeline Pankhurst tended to her husband and children, but still devoted time to political activities. Although she gave birth to five children in ten years, both she and Richard believed that she should not be "a household machine". [33] Thus a butler was hired to help with the children as Pankhurst involved herself with the Women's Suffrage Society. Their daughter Christabel was born on 22 September 1880, less than a year after the wedding. Pankhurst gave birth to another daughter, Estelle Sylvia, in 1882 and their son Henry Francis Robert, nicknamed Frank, in 1884. Soon afterwards Richard Pankhurst left the Liberal Party. He began expressing more radical socialist views and argued a case in court against several wealthy businessmen. These actions roused Robert Goulden's ire and the mood in the house became tense. In 1885, the Pankhursts moved to Chorlton-on-Medlock, and their daughter Adela was born. They moved to London the following year, where Richard ran unsuccessfully for election as a Member of Parliament and Pankhurst opened a small fabric shop called Emerson and Company, together with her sister Mary Jane. [34] [35]

In 1888, Francis developed diphtheria and died on 11 September. Overwhelmed with grief, Pankhurst commissioned two portraits of the dead boy but was unable to look at them and hid them in a bedroom cupboard. The family concluded that a faulty drainage system at the back of their house had caused their son's illness. Pankhurst blamed the poor conditions of the neighbourhood, and the family moved to a more affluent middle class district at Russell Square. She was soon pregnant once more and declared that the child was "Frank coming again". [36] She gave birth to a son on 7 July 1889 and named him Henry Francis in honour of his deceased brother. [34]

Pankhurst made their Russell Square home into a centre for political intellectuals and activists, including, "Socialists, Protesters, Anarchists, Suffragists, Free Thinkers, Radicals and Humanitarians of all schools." [37] She took pleasure in decorating the house – especially with furnishings from Asia – and clothing the family in tasteful apparel. Her daughter Sylvia later wrote: "Beauty and appropriateness in her dress and household appointments seemed to her at all times an indispensable setting to public work." [37]

The Pankhursts hosted a variety of guests including Indian MP Dadabhai Naoroji, socialist activists Herbert Burrows and Annie Besant, and French anarchist Louise Michel. [37]

In 1888, Britain's first nationwide coalition of groups advocating women's right to vote, the National Society for Women's Suffrage (NSWS), split after a majority of members decided to accept organisations affiliated with political parties. Angry at this decision, some of the group's leaders, including Lydia Becker and Millicent Fawcett, stormed out of the meeting and created an alternative organisation committed to the "old rules," called the Great College Street Society after the location of its headquarters. Pankhurst aligned herself with the "new rules" group, which became known as the Parliament Street Society (PSS). Some members of the PSS favoured a piecemeal approach to gaining the vote. Because it was often assumed that married women did not need the vote since their husbands "voted for them," some PSS members felt that the vote for single women and widows was a practical step along the path to full suffrage. When the reluctance within the PSS to advocate on behalf of married women became clear, Pankhurst and her husband helped organise another new group dedicated to voting rights for all women – married and unmarried. [38]

The inaugural meeting of the Women's Franchise League (WFL) was held on 25 July 1889, at the Pankhurst home in Russell Square. Early members of the WFL included Josephine Butler, leader of the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts the Pankhursts' friend Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy and Harriot Eaton Stanton Blatch, daughter of US suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. [39]

The WFL was considered a radical organisation, since in addition to women's suffrage it supported equal rights for women in the areas of divorce and inheritance. It also advocated trade unionism and sought alliances with socialist organisations. The more conservative group that emerged from the NSWS split spoke out against what they called the "extreme left" wing of the movement. [40] The WFL reacted by ridiculing the "Spinster Suffrage party" [41] and insisting that a wider assault on social inequity was required. The group's radicalism caused some members to leave both Blatch and Elmy resigned from the WFL. The group fell apart one year later. [42]

Pankhurst's shop never succeeded and he had trouble attracting business in London. With the family's finances in jeopardy, Richard travelled regularly to northwest England, where most of his clients were. In 1893 the Pankhursts closed the store and returned to Manchester. They stayed for several months in the seaside town of Southport, then moved briefly to the village of Disley and finally settled into a house in Manchester's Victoria Park. The girls were enrolled in Manchester Girls' High School, where they felt confined by the large student population and strictly regimented schedule. [43]

Pankhurst began to work with several political organisations, distinguishing herself for the first time as an activist in her own right and gaining respect in the community. One biographer describes this period as her "emergence from Richard's shadow." [44] In addition to her work on behalf of women's suffrage, she became active with the Women's Liberal Federation (WLF), an auxiliary of the Liberal Party. She quickly grew disenchanted with the group's moderate positions, however, especially its unwillingness to support Irish Home Rule and the aristocratic leadership of Archibald Primrose. [45]

In 1888 Pankhurst had met and befriended Keir Hardie, a socialist from Scotland. He was elected to parliament in 1891 and two years later helped to create the Independent Labour Party (ILP). Excited about the range of issues which the ILP pledged to confront, Pankhurst resigned from the WFL and applied to join the ILP. The local branch refused her admission on the grounds of her sex, but she eventually joined the ILP nationally. Christabel later wrote of her mother's enthusiasm for the party and its organising efforts: "In this movement she hoped there might be the means of righting every political and social wrong." [45] [46]

One of her first activities with the ILP found Pankhurst distributing food to poor men and women through the Committee for the Relief of the Unemployed. In December 1894 she was elected to the position of Poor Law Guardian in Chorlton-on-Medlock. She was appalled by the conditions she witnessed first-hand in the Manchester workhouse:

The first time I went into the place I was horrified to see little girls seven and eight years old on their knees scrubbing the cold stones of the long corridors . bronchitis was epidemic among them most of the time . I found that there were pregnant women in that workhouse, scrubbing floors, doing the hardest kind of work, almost until their babies came into the world . Of course the babies are very badly protected . These poor, unprotected mothers and their babies I am sure were potent factors in my education as a militant. [47]

Pankhurst immediately began to change these conditions, and established herself as a successful voice of reform on the Board of Guardians. Her chief opponent was a passionate man named Mainwaring, known for his rudeness. Recognising that his loud anger was hurting his chances of persuading those aligned with Pankhurst, he kept a note nearby during meetings: "Keep your temper!" [48]

After helping her husband with another unsuccessful parliamentary campaign, Pankhurst faced legal troubles in 1896 when she and two men violated a court order against ILP meetings at Boggart Hole Clough. With Richard's volunteering his time as legal counsel, they refused to pay fines, and the two men spent a month in prison. The punishment was never ordered for Pankhurst, however, possibly because the magistrate feared public backlash against the imprisonment of a woman so respected in the community. Asked by an ILP reporter if she were prepared to spend time in prison, Pankhurst replied: "Oh, yes, quite. It wouldn't be so very dreadful, you know, and it would be a valuable experience." [49] Although ILP meetings were eventually permitted, the episode was a strain on Pankhurst's health and caused loss of income for their family. [50]

Richard's death Edit

During the struggle at Boggart Hole Clough, Richard Pankhurst began to experience severe stomach pains. He had developed a gastric ulcer, and his health deteriorated in 1897. The family moved briefly to Mobberley, with the hope that country air would help his condition. He soon felt well again, and the family returned to Manchester in the autumn. In the summer of 1898, he suffered a sudden relapse. Emmeline Pankhurst had taken their oldest daughter Christabel to Corsier, Switzerland, to visit her old friend Noémie. A telegram arrived from Richard, reading: "I am not well. Please come home, my love." [51] Leaving Christabel with Noémie, Pankhurst returned immediately to England. On 5 July, while on a train from London to Manchester, she noticed a newspaper announcing the death of Richard Pankhurst. [52]

The loss of her husband left Pankhurst with new responsibilities and a significant amount of debt. She moved the family to a smaller house at 62 Nelson Street, resigned from the Board of Guardians, and was given a paid position as Registrar of Births and Deaths in Chorlton. This work gave her more insight into the conditions of women in the region. She wrote in her autobiography: "They used to tell me their stories, dreadful stories some of them, and all of them pathetic with that patient and uncomplaining pathos of poverty." [53] Her observations of the differences between the lives of men and women, for example in relation to illegitimacy, reinforced her conviction that women needed the right to vote before their conditions could improve. In 1900 she was elected to the Manchester School Board and saw new examples of women suffering unequal treatment and limited opportunities. During this time she also re-opened her store, with the hope that it would provide additional income for the family. [53] [54]

The individual identities of the Pankhurst children began to emerge around the time of their father's death. Before long they were all involved in the struggle for women's suffrage. Christabel enjoyed a privileged status among the daughters, as Sylvia noted in 1931: "She was our mother's favourite we all knew it, and I, for one, never resented the fact." [55] Christabel did not share her mother's fervour for political work, however, until she befriended the suffrage activists Esther Roper and Eva Gore-Booth. She soon became involved with the suffrage movement and joined her mother at speaking events. [56] Sylvia took lessons from a respected local artist and soon received a scholarship to the Manchester School of Art. She went on to study art in Florence and Venice. [57] The younger children, Adela and Harry, had difficulty finding a path for their studies. Adela was sent to a local boarding school, where she was cut off from her friends and contracted head lice. Harry also had difficulty at school he suffered from measles and vision problems. [58]

By 1903, Pankhurst believed that years of moderate speeches and promises about women's suffrage from members of parliament (MPs) had yielded no progress. Although suffrage bills in 1870, 1886, and 1897 had shown promise, each was defeated. She doubted that political parties, with their many agenda items, would ever make women's suffrage a priority. She even broke with the ILP when it refused to focus on Votes for Women. It was necessary to abandon the patient tactics of existing advocacy groups, she believed, in favour of more militant actions. Thus on 10 October 1903 Pankhurst and several colleagues founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), an organisation open only to women and focused on direct action to win the vote. [60] "Deeds," she wrote later, "not words, was to be our permanent motto." [4]

The group's early militancy took non-violent forms. In addition to making speeches and gathering petition signatures, the WSPU organised rallies and published a newsletter called Votes for Women. The group also convened a series of "Women's Parliaments" to coincide with official government sessions. When a bill for women's suffrage was filibustered on 12 May 1905, Pankhurst and other WSPU members began a loud protest outside the Parliament building. Police immediately forced them away from the building, where they regrouped and demanded passage of the bill. Although the bill was never resurrected, Pankhurst considered it a successful demonstration of militancy's power to capture attention. [61] Pankhurst declared in 1906: "We are at last recognized as a political party we are now in the swim of politics, and are a political force." [62]

Before long, all three of her daughters became active with the WSPU. Christabel was arrested after spitting at a policeman during a meeting of the Liberal Party in October 1905 [63] Adela and Sylvia were arrested a year later during a protest outside Parliament. [64] Pankhurst was arrested for the first time in February 1908, when she tried to enter Parliament to deliver a protest resolution to Prime Minister H. H. Asquith. She was charged with obstruction and sentenced to six weeks in prison. She spoke out against the conditions of her confinement, including vermin, meagre food, and the "civilised torture of solitary confinement and absolute silence" to which she and others were ordered. [65] Pankhurst saw imprisonment as a means to publicise the urgency of women's suffrage in June 1909 she struck a police officer twice in the face to ensure she would be arrested. Pankhurst was arrested seven times before women's suffrage was approved. During her trial on 21 October 1908 she told the court: "We are here not because we are law-breakers we are here in our efforts to become law-makers." [66] [67] [68]

The exclusive focus of the WSPU on votes for women was another hallmark of its militancy. While other organizations agreed to work with individual political parties, the WSPU insisted on separating itself from – and in many cases opposing – parties which did not make women's suffrage a priority. The group protested against all candidates belonging to the party of the ruling government since it refused to pass women's suffrage legislation. This brought them into immediate conflict with Liberal Party organisers, particularly since many Liberal candidates supported women's suffrage. (One early target of WSPU opposition was future Prime Minister Winston Churchill his opponent attributed Churchill's defeat in part to "those ladies who are sometimes laughed at.") [69]

Members of the WSPU were sometimes heckled and derided for spoiling elections for Liberal candidates. On 18 January 1908, Pankhurst and her associate Nellie Martel were attacked by an all-male crowd of Liberal supporters who blamed the WSPU for costing them a recent by-election to the Conservative candidate. The men threw clay, rotten eggs, and stones packed in snow the women were beaten and Pankhurst's ankle was severely bruised. [70] Similar tensions later formed with Labour. Until party leaders made the vote for women a priority, however, the WSPU vowed to continue its militant activism. Pankhurst and others in the union saw party politics as distracting to the goal of women's suffrage and criticised other organisations for putting party loyalty ahead of women's votes. [71]

As the WSPU gained recognition and notoriety for its actions, Pankhurst resisted efforts to democratise the organisation itself. In 1907 a small group of members led by Teresa Billington-Greig called for more involvement from the rank-and-file suffragettes at the union's annual meetings. In response, Pankhurst announced at a WSPU meeting that elements of the organisation's constitution relating to decision-making were void and cancelled the annual meetings. She also insisted that a small committee chosen by the members in attendance be allowed to co-ordinate WSPU activities. Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel were chosen (along with Mabel Tuke and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence) as members of the new committee. Frustrated, several members including Billington-Greig and Charlotte Despard quit to form their own organisation, the Women's Freedom League. [72] In her 1914 autobiography Pankhurst dismissed criticism of the WSPU's leadership structure:

if at any time a member, or a group of members, loses faith in our policy if any one begins to suggest that some other policy ought to be substituted, or if she tries to confuse the issue by adding other policies, she ceases at once to be a member. Autocratic? Quite so. But, you may object, a suffrage organisation ought to be democratic. Well the members of the W. S. P. U. do not agree with you. We do not believe in the effectiveness of the ordinary suffrage organisation. The W. S. P. U. is not hampered by a complexity of rules. We have no constitution and by-laws nothing to be amended or tinkered with or quarrelled over at an annual meeting . The W. S. P. U. is simply a suffrage army in the field. [73]

Tactical intensification Edit

On 26 June 1908, 500,000 activists rallied in Hyde Park to demand votes for women Asquith and leading MPs responded with indifference. Angered by this intransigence and abusive police activity, some WSPU members increased the severity of their actions. Soon after the rally, twelve women gathered in Parliament Square and tried to deliver speeches for women's suffrage. Police officers seized several of the speakers and pushed them into a crowd of opponents who had gathered nearby. Frustrated, two WSPU members – Edith New and Mary Leigh – went to 10 Downing Street and hurled rocks at the windows of the Prime Minister's home. They insisted their act was independent of the WSPU command, but Pankhurst expressed her approval of the action. When a magistrate sentenced New and Leigh to two months' imprisonment, Pankhurst reminded the court of how various male political agitators had broken windows to win legal and civil rights throughout Britain's history. [74]

In 1909 the hunger strike was added to the WSPU's repertoire of resistance. On 24 June Marion Wallace Dunlop was arrested for writing an excerpt from the Bill of Rights (1688 or 1689) on a wall in the House of Commons. Angered by the conditions of the jail, Dunlop went on a hunger strike. When it proved effective, fourteen women imprisoned for smashing windows began to fast. WSPU members soon became known around the country for holding prolonged hunger strikes to protest their incarceration. Prison authorities frequently force-fed the women, using tubes inserted through the nose or mouth. The painful techniques (which, in the case of mouth-feeding, required the use of steel gags to force the mouth open) brought condemnation from suffragists and medical professionals. [75]

These tactics caused some tension between the WSPU and more moderate organizations, which had coalesced into the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). That group's leader, Millicent Fawcett, originally hailed WSPU members for their courage and dedication to the cause. By 1912, however, she declared that hunger strikes were mere publicity stunts and that militant activists were "the chief obstacles in the way of the success of the suffrage movement in the House of Commons." [76] The NUWSS refused to join a march of women's suffrage groups after demanding without success that the WSPU end its support of property destruction. Fawcett's sister Elizabeth Garrett Anderson later resigned from the WSPU for similar reasons. [77]

Press coverage was mixed many journalists noted that crowds of women responded positively to speeches by Pankhurst, while others condemned her radical approach to the issue. The Daily News urged her to endorse a more moderate approach, and other press outlets condemned the breaking of windows by WSPU members. In 1906 Daily Mail journalist Charles Hands referred to militant women using the diminutive term "suffragette" (rather than the standard "suffragist"). Pankhurst and her allies seized the term as their own and used it to differentiate themselves from moderate groups. [78]

The last half of the century's first decade was a time of sorrow, loneliness, and constant work for Pankhurst. In 1907 she sold her home in Manchester and began an itinerant lifestyle, moving from place to place as she spoke and marched for women's suffrage. She stayed with friends and in hotels, carrying her few possessions in suitcases. Although she was energized by the struggle–and found joy in giving energy to others– her constant travelling meant separation from her children, especially Christabel, who had become the national coordinator of the WSPU. In 1909, as Pankhurst planned a speaking tour of the United States, Henry was paralyzed after his spinal cord became inflamed. She hesitated to leave the country while he was ill, but she needed money to pay for his treatment and the tour promised to be lucrative. On her return from a successful tour, she sat by Henry's bedside as he died on 5 January 1910. Five days later she buried her son, then spoke before 5,000 people in Manchester. Liberal Party supporters who had come to heckle her remained quiet as she addressed the crowd. [79]

Conciliation, force-feeding attempt, and arson Edit

After the Liberal losses in the 1910 elections, ILP member and journalist Henry Brailsford helped organise a Conciliation Committee for Women's Suffrage, which gathered 54 MPs from various parties. The group's Conciliation Bill looked to be a narrowly defined but still significant possibility to achieve the vote for some women. Thus the WSPU agreed to suspend its support for window-breaking and hunger strikes while it was being negotiated. When it became clear that the bill would not pass, Pankhurst declared: "If the Bill, in spite of our efforts, is killed by the Government, then . I have to say there is an end to the truce." [80] When it was defeated, Pankhurst led a protest march of 300 women to Parliament Square on 18 November. They were met with aggressive police response, directed by Home Secretary Winston Churchill: officers punched the marchers, twisted arms, and pulled on women's breasts. [81] Although Pankhurst was allowed to enter Parliament, Prime Minister Asquith refused to meet her. The incident became known as Black Friday. [81] Her sister Mary Jane, who had attended the protest, too, was arrested for the third time, a few days later. She was sentenced to a month of imprisonment. On Christmas Day she died at the home of their brother Herbert Goulden, two days after her release. [35]

As subsequent Conciliation Bills were introduced, WSPU leaders advocated a halt to militant tactics. Aileen Preston was appointed as Pankhurst's lady chauffeuse in April 1911, to drive her around the country to help spread the suffrage message. [83] [84] In March 1912 the second bill was in jeopardy and Pankhurst joined a fresh outbreak of window-smashing. Extensive property damage led police to raid the WSPU offices. Pankhurst and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence were tried at the Old Bailey and convicted of conspiracy to commit property damage. Christabel, who by 1912 was the chief coordinator for the organisation, was also wanted by police. She fled to Paris, where she directed WSPU strategy in exile. Inside Holloway Prison Emmeline Pankhurst staged her first hunger strike to improve conditions for other suffragettes in nearby cells she was quickly joined by Pethick-Lawrence and other WSPU members. She described in her autobiography the trauma caused by force-feeding during the strike: "Holloway became a place of horror and torment. Sickening scenes of violence took place almost every hour of the day, as the doctors went from cell to cell performing their hideous office." [85] When prison officials tried to enter her cell, Pankhurst raised a clay jug over her head and announced: "If any of you dares so much as to take one step inside this cell I shall defend myself." [86] [87]

Pankhurst was spared further force-feeding attempts after this incident, but she continued to violate the law and – when imprisoned – starve herself in protest. During the following two years she was arrested numerous times but was frequently released after several days because of her ill-health. Later, the Asquith government enacted the Cat and Mouse Act, which allowed similar releases for other suffragettes facing ill-health due to hunger strikes. Prison officials recognised the potential public relations disaster that would erupt if the popular WSPU leader were force-fed or allowed to suffer extensively in jail. Still, police officers arrested her during talks and as she marched. She tried to evade police harassment by wearing disguises and eventually the WSPU established a jujutsu-trained female bodyguard squad to physically protect her against the police. She and other escorts were targeted by police, resulting in violent scuffles as officers tried to detain Pankhurst. [88]

In 1912 WSPU members adopted arson as another tactic to win the vote. After Prime Minister Asquith had visited the Theatre Royal in Dublin, suffragette activists Gladys Evans, Mary Leigh, Lizzie Baker and Mabel Capper of Oxford Street, Manchester attempted to cause an explosion using gunpowder and benzine, which resulted in minimal damage. During the same evening Mary Leigh threw an axe at the carriage containing John Redmond (leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party), the Lord Mayor, and Asquith. [89] Over the next two years women set fire to a refreshments building in Regent's Park, an orchid house at Kew Gardens, pillar boxes, and a railway carriage. Emily Davison threw herself under the Kings Horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913. Her funeral drew 55,000 attendees along the streets and at the funeral. This gave significant publicity to the movement. Although Pankhurst confirmed that these women had not been commanded by her or Christabel, they both assured the public that they supported the arsonist suffragettes. There were similar incidents around the country. One WSPU member, for example, put a small hatchet into the Prime Minister's carriage inscribed with the words: "Votes for Women," [90] and other suffragettes used acid to burn the same slogan into golf courses used by MPs. [91] In 1914 Mary Richardson slashed the Velasquez painting Rokeby Venus to protest against Pankhurst's imprisonment. [92]

Defection and dismissal Edit

The WSPU's approval of property destruction led to the departure of several important members. The first were Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and her husband Frederick. They had long been integral members of the group's leadership but found themselves in conflict with Christabel about the wisdom of such volatile tactics. After returning from a vacation in Canada they found that Pankhurst had expelled them from the WSPU. The pair found the decision appalling, but to avoid a schism in the movement they continued to praise Pankhurst and the organisation in public. Around the same time, Emmeline's daughter Adela left the group. She disapproved of WSPU endorsement of property destruction and felt that a heavier emphasis on socialism was necessary. Adela's relationship with her family – especially Christabel – was also strained as a result. [93]

The deepest rift in the Pankhurst family came in November 1913 when Sylvia spoke at a meeting of socialists and trade unionists in support of trade union organiser Jim Larkin. She had been working with the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS), a local branch of the WSPU which had a close relationship with socialists and organised labour. The close connection to labour groups and Sylvia's appearance on stage with Frederick Pethick-Lawrence – who also addressed the crowd – convinced Christabel that her sister was organising a group that might challenge the WSPU in the suffrage movement. The dispute became public, and members of groups including the WSPU, ILP, and ELFS braced themselves for a showdown. [95]

In January Sylvia was summoned to Paris, where Emmeline and Christabel were waiting. Their mother had just returned from another tour of the US, and Sylvia had just been released from prison. All three women were exhausted and stressed, which added considerably to the tension. In her 1931 book The Suffrage Movement Sylvia describes Christabel as an unreasonable figure, haranguing her for refusing to toe the WSPU line:

She turned to me. "You have your own ideas. We do not want that we want all our women to take their instructions and walk in step like an army!" Too tired, too ill to argue, I made no reply. I was oppressed by a sense of tragedy, grieved by her ruthlessness. Her glorification of autocracy seemed to me remote indeed from the struggle we were waging, the grim fight even now proceeding in the cells. I thought of many others who had been thrust aside for some minor difference. [96]

With their mother's blessing, Christabel ordered Sylvia's group to dissociate from the WSPU. Pankhurst tried to persuade the ELFS to remove the word "suffragettes" from its name, since it was inextricably linked to the WSPU. When Sylvia refused, her mother switched to fierce anger in a letter:

You are unreasonable, always have been & I fear always will be. I suppose you were made so! . Had you chosen a name which we could approve we could have done much to launch you & advertise your society by name. Now you must take your own way of doing so. I am sorry but you make your own difficulties by an incapacity to look at situations from other people's point of view as well as your own. Perhaps in time you will learn the lessons that we all have to learn in life. [97]

Adela, unemployed and unsure of her future, had become a worry for Pankhurst as well. She decided that Adela should move to Australia, and paid for her relocation. They never saw one another again. [98]

The Women's Party Edit

In November 1917 the WSPU's weekly newspaper announced that the WSPU was to become the Women's Party. Twelve months later on Tuesday 19 November at the Queen's Hall in London Emmeline Pankhurst said that her daughter Christabel would be their candidate at the forthcoming General Election, the first at which women could stand as candidates. They didn't say which constituency they would fight but a few days later Westbury in Wiltshire was identified. Emmeline lobbied Prime Minister David Lloyd George to ensure Christabel would have coalition backing. However, as these discussions were taking place the Pankhurst's switched their attention to Smethwick in Staffordshire. The Coalition had already settled on a local candidate, Major Samuel Nock Thompson, but Bonar Law, the Conservative leader, was persuaded to ask Thompson to withdraw. Significantly, Christabel was not issued with a formal letter of support from the two leaders, the Coalition Coupon. Christabel then had a straight fight with the Labour candidate John Davison and lost by 775 votes. The Women's Party fought no other elections and closed soon after. [99]

When the First World War began in August 1914, Emmeline and Christabel considered that the threat posed by Germany was a danger to all humanity, and that the British government needed the support of all men. They persuaded the WSPU to halt all militant suffrage activities until fighting on the European mainland ended. It was no time for dissent or agitation Christabel wrote later: "This was national militancy. As Suffragists we could not be pacifists at any price." [100] A truce with the government was established, all WSPU prisoners were released, and Christabel returned to London. Emmeline and Christabel set the WSPU into motion on behalf of the war effort. In her first speech after returning to Britain, Christabel warned of the "German Peril". She urged the gathered women to follow the example of their French sisters, who – while the men fought – "are able to keep the country going, to get in the harvest, to carry on the industries". [6] Emmeline tried to shame men in to volunteering for the front lines. [101]

Sylvia and Adela, meanwhile, did not share their mother's enthusiasm for the war. As committed pacifists, they rejected the WSPU's support for the government. Sylvia's socialist perspective convinced her that the war was another example of capitalist oligarchs exploiting poor soldiers and workers. Adela, meanwhile, spoke against the war in Australia and made public her opposition to conscription. In a short letter, Emmeline told Sylvia: "I am ashamed to know where you and Adela stand." [6] She had a similar impatience for dissent within the WSPU when long-time member Mary Leigh asked a question during a meeting in October 1915, Pankhurst replied: "[T]hat woman is a pro German and should leave the hall. . I denounce you as a pro German and wish to forget that such a person ever existed." [103] Some WSPU members were outraged by this sudden rigid devotion to the government, the leadership's perceived abandonment of efforts to win the vote for women, and questions about how funds collected on behalf of suffrage were being managed with regard to the organisation's new focus. Two groups split from the WSPU: The Suffragettes of the Women's Social and Political Union (SWSPU) and the Independent Women's Social and Political Union (IWSPU), each dedicated to maintaining pressure toward women's suffrage. [104]

Pankhurst put the same energy and determination she had previously applied to women's suffrage into patriotic advocacy of the war effort. She organised rallies, toured constantly delivering speeches, and lobbied the government to help women enter the work force while men were overseas fighting. Another issue which concerned her greatly at the time was the plight of so-called war babies, children born to single mothers whose fathers were on the front lines. Pankhurst established an adoption home at Campden Hill designed to employ the Montessori method of childhood education. Some women criticised Pankhurst for offering relief to parents of children born out of wedlock, but she declared indignantly that the welfare of children–whose suffering she had seen firsthand as a Poor Law Guardian–was her only concern. Due to lack of funds, however, the home was soon turned over to Princess Alice. Pankhurst herself adopted four children, whom she renamed Kathleen King, Flora Mary Gordon, Joan Pembridge and Elizabeth Tudor. They lived in London, where–for the first time in many years–she had a permanent home, at Holland Park. [105] Asked how, at the age of 57 and with no steady income, she could take on the burden of bringing up four more children, Pankhurst replied: "My dear, I wonder I didn't take forty." [106]

Russian delegation Edit

Pankhurst visited North America in 1916 together with the former Secretary of State for Serbia, Čedomilj Mijatović, whose nation had been at the centre of fighting at the start of the war. They toured the United States and Canada, raising money and urging the US government to support Britain and its Canadian and other allies. Two years later, after the US entered the war, Pankhurst returned to the United States, encouraging suffragettes there – who had not suspended their militancy – to support the war effort by sidelining activities related to the vote. She also spoke about her fears of communist insurgency, which she considered a grave threat to Russian democracy. [107]

By June 1917 the Russian Revolution had strengthened the Bolsheviks, who urged an end to the war. Pankhurst's translated autobiography had been read widely in Russia, and she saw an opportunity to put pressure on the Russian people. She hoped to convince them not to accept Germany's conditions for peace, which she saw as a potential defeat for Britain and Russia. UK Prime Minister David Lloyd George agreed to sponsor her trip to Russia, which she took in June. She told one crowd: "I came to Petrograd with a prayer from the English nation to the Russian nation, that you may continue the war on which depends the face of civilisation and freedom." [108] Press response was divided between left and right wings the former depicted her as a tool of capitalism, while the latter praised her devout patriotism. [109]

In August she met with Alexander Kerensky, the Russian Prime Minister. Although she had been active with the socialist-leaning ILP in years past, Pankhurst had begun to see leftist politics as disagreeable, an attitude which intensified while she was in Russia. The meeting was uncomfortable for both parties he felt that she was unable to appreciate the class-based conflict driving Russian policy at the time. He concluded by telling her that English women had nothing to teach women in Russia. She later told the New York Times that he was the "biggest fraud of modern times" and that his government could "destroy civilisation." [110] [111]

When she returned from Russia, Pankhurst was delighted to find that women's right to vote was finally on its way to becoming a reality. The 1918 Representation of the People Act removed property restrictions on men's suffrage and granted the vote to women over the age of 30 (with several restrictions). As suffragists and suffragettes celebrated and prepared for its imminent passage, a new schism erupted: should women's political organisations join forces with those established by men? Many socialists and moderates supported unity of the sexes in politics, but Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst saw the best hope in remaining separate. They reinvented the WSPU as the Women's Party, still open only to women. Women, they said, "can best serve the nation by keeping clear of men's party political machinery and traditions, which, by universal consent, leave so much to be desired." [112] The party favoured equal marriage laws, equal pay for equal work, and equal job opportunities for women. These were matters for the post-war era, however. While the fighting continued the Women's Party demanded no compromise in the defeat of Germany the removal from government of anyone with family ties to Germany or pacifist attitudes and shorter work hours to forestall labour strikes. This last plank in the party's platform was meant to discourage potential interest in Bolshevism, about which Pankhurst was increasingly anxious. [113]

In the years after the 1918 Armistice, Pankhurst continued to promote her nationalist vision of British unity. She maintained a focus on women's empowerment, but her days of fighting with government officialdom were over. She defended the presence and reach of the British Empire: "Some talk about the Empire and Imperialism as if it were something to decry and something to be ashamed of. [I]t is a great thing to be the inheritors of an Empire like ours . great in territory, great in potential wealth. . If we can only realise and use that potential wealth we can destroy thereby poverty, we can remove and destroy ignorance." [115] For years she travelled around England and North America, rallying support for the British Empire and warning audiences about the dangers of Bolshevism. After the war she lived in Bermuda and America for a couple years. [116]

Emmeline Pankhurst also became active in political campaigning again when a bill was passed allowing women to run for the House of Commons. Many Women's Party members urged Pankhurst to stand for election, but she insisted that Christabel was a better choice. She campaigned tirelessly for her daughter, lobbying Prime Minister Lloyd George for his support and at one point delivering a passionate speech in the rain. Christabel lost by a very slim margin to the Labour Party candidate, and the recount showed a difference of 775 votes. One biographer called it "the bitterest disappointment of Emmeline's life." [117] The Women's Party withered from existence soon afterward. [118]

As a result of her many trips to North America, Pankhurst became fond of Canada, stating in an interview that "there seems to be more equality between men and women [there] than in any other country I know." [119] In 1922 she applied for Canadian "permission to land" (a prerequisite to status as a "British Subject with Canadian Domicile") and rented a house in Toronto, where she moved with her four adopted children. She became active with the Canadian National Council for Combating Venereal Diseases (CNCCVD), which worked against the sexual double standard which Pankhurst considered particularly harmful to women. During a tour of Bathurst, the mayor showed her a new building which would become the Home for Fallen Women. Pankhurst replied: "Ah! Where is your Home for Fallen Men?" [120] Before long, however, she grew tired of long Canadian winters, and she ran out of money. She returned to England in late 1925. [121]

Back in London Emmeline was visited by Sylvia, who had not seen her mother in years. Their politics were by now very different, and Sylvia was living, unmarried, with an Italian anarchist. Sylvia described a moment of familial affection when they met, followed by a sad distance between them. Emmeline's adopted daughter Mary, however, remembered the meeting differently. According to her version, Emmeline set her teacup down and walked silently out of the room, leaving Sylvia in tears. [122] Christabel, meanwhile, had become a convert to Adventism and devoted much of her time to the church. The British press sometimes made light of the varied paths followed by the once indivisible family. [123]

In 1926 Pankhurst joined the Conservative Party and two years later ran as a candidate for Parliament in Whitechapel and St George's. Her transformation from a fiery supporter of the ILP and window-smashing radical to an official Conservative Party member surprised many people. She replied succinctly: "My war experience and my experience on the other side of the Atlantic have changed my views considerably." [124] Her biographers insist that the move was more complex she was devoted to a programme of women's empowerment and anti-communism. Both the Liberal and Labour parties bore grudges for her work against them in the WSPU, and the Conservative Party had a victorious record after the war and a significant majority. Pankhurst may have joined the Conservative Party as much to secure the vote for women as from ideological affinity. [125]

Mather & Co’s movement with the Pankhurst Centre

Leading exhibition designers, Mather & Co, have been appointed to develop a new permanent exhibition on the Pankhurst family at their former home, 62 Nelson Street in Manchester, now known as the Pankhurst Centre. This building is an iconic site for women’s activism, past, present, and future.

From 1898 to 1907, 62 Nelson Street was home to Emmeline Pankhurst and her family, and is where the first meeting of the suffragette movement took place. It’s where leading campaigners in the votes for women movement would gather and where Emmeline would first utter the call for action, “Deeds Not Words”.

Leanne Clydesdale, Project Designer at Mather & Co said: “I personally feel incredibly privileged to be part of the team working with the Pankhurst Centre on this new interpretation. The significance of this building not only in the story of the Pankhurst family and their role in the continuing campaign for women’s rights and freedoms, but also in the socio-political history of Manchester cannot be underrepresented. This building has an important story to tell and we hope to inspire debate and thought within its walls for many years to come.”

This project aims to inspire young audiences with the history of the suffragette movement and to empower the next generation to make change in the world we live in today. The exhibition will showcase the Pankhurst family’s achievements to visitors in new and engaging ways. The project has been made possible thanks to funding from AIM Biffa Award History Makers, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund.

Sarah Clarke, Managing Director at Mather & Co added: “The Pankhurst Centre is the only site dedicated to telling the story of women’s fight for the right to vote. I am proud of the fact The Pankhurst Centre acknowledged the strong female presence in our company at all levels of the business – which feels very empowering!”

Tessa Chynoweth, Curator of the Pankhurst Centre, said: “We are extremely grateful to our funders AIM Biffa Award History Makers for supporting us in this project. At Home with the Pankhurst Family will unlock the story of this unique family and highlight the significance this building has played in the history of women’s suffrage and its role in inspiring future changemakers. Mather & Co are working alongside us and our volunteers to create what will be a very special visitor experience. For the Pankhurst Trust this is a vital step forward in our vision to ultimately see the entire building conserved and restored.”

The completion of At Home with the Pankhurst Family will mark the reopening of the Pankhurst Centre, which has been closed due to the impact of Covid-19, and is due to take place in summer 2021.

There’s more to the National Lottery than its lucky jackpot winners: the organisation has supported over 625,000 good causes since its launch in 1994, in everything from health to heritage.

Thanks to lottery funding, Manchester will welcome two diverse archive projects next summer one on its radical women’s history, the other on the city’s lesser-known ties to hip hop.

Rooms of Our Own: The Herstory of the Pankhurst Centre

Made possible with a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £87,617, this project will connect the Pankhurst Centre archive - currently a neglected resource of radical women’s history - with young people today, who’ll be taught skills such as archiving and the recording of oral histories.

‘Rooms of Our Own: The Herstory of the Pankhurst Centre’ will enhance the centre’s archive, currently under-resourced, and improve community outreach

It’s also due to the National Lottery that the Pankhurst Centre - former home of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and now a museum of women’s activism - has ridden the COVID-19 storm, thanks to emergency proceeds towards short-term running costs. The venue has remained closed since March and now plans to open next summer, when (thanks to another funding source, AIM Biffa Award History Makers) it will ‘reimagine’ the visitor experience with a new exhibition called At Home with the Pankhurst Family. This will explore the story of the radical family that once lived at 62 Nelson Street and the legacy they forged.

The centre’s curator Tessa Chynoweth said: “Thanks to AIM Biffa Award’s History Makers Programme and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Pankhurst Centre is about to embark upon two projects that will be truly transformative, marking the beginnings of our ambitious vision.

“It is our role to protect, share, learn from and inspire others with the story of the Pankhurst Centre, the legacy and people that it represents. The funding of these projects will give us the opportunity to do this.”

You can add your support to the work of the Pankhurst Centre by making a donation or becoming a Friend. For more information visit

‘At Home with the Pankhurst Family’ will focus on the lives of Emmeline and her family, in the place that was not only their home but a gathering place for many who wanted votes for women

Manchester Hip Hop Archives (MHHA)

Manchester has long been famous for its music, but is better known for its links with the post-punk scene than hip hop. That will soon change with Manchester Hip Hop Archives (MHHA), which is being launched thanks to a grant of £343,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to its creators Unity Radio. An MHHA exhibition is due to open next summer following the website launch in spring.

Although hip hop culture is synonymous with cities across America, such as New York and Atlanta, the archives (now underway) will reveal that Manchester has its own collection of fascinating stories to be shared.

These include memories from MHHA chair Robert McFarlane aka Prince Kool, who was the UK’s first rap champion in 1987 and won the DMC UK Rap completion at the Hippodrome in London. His role as a founding member of the ‘Rock The House Crew,’ and first ‘Manchester Rap Competitions’ at West Didsbury’s Fielden Park Young People’s Centre in 1989 and 1990, played a significant role in the city’s hip hop scene in its early days and will also feed into the archives.

Original graffiti photographs from 1988-89 MHHA

Despite the prevalence of hip hop culture in art, clothing and music, and the ever-growing popularity of related genres like grime, the MHHA project team have found that many young people are unaware of where it all began and the role Manchester has played in its development.

Writer, broadcaster, activist, and former Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam said: “Manchester is a city full of stories, and with a popular culture that’s the envy of the world. I am lucky enough to have been around in the early days in the 1980s, and it’ll be a pleasure to help celebrate that scene, and all the subsequent eras - the fashions, the clubs, the studios, the record stores, all of it - and to rediscover the foundations which underpin the thriving music scene in Manchester’s right now.

“People know Manchester’s headline music history, but I love that now, thanks to Manchester Hip Hop Archives, we have a chance to celebrate an under-documented and under-appreciated part of that story, and the communities and the context. And we can share all that with the world and with the young. All our ideas and experiences will be re-energised by the younger kids our past is fuel for their future.”

Dave Haslam - “Manchester is a city full of stories, and with a popular culture that’s the envy of the world”

Manchester denizen and winner of the Urban Music Awards Best DJ 2020 accolade, DJ G-A-Z, added: “Manchester played a significant role in the migration of hip hop into the UK in the early years, and this story has yet to be told. At a time that Manchester's rap sound has become the hottest in the UK, there has never been better time to celebrate our regional culture and history, and the Manchester Hip Hop Archive is set to do this!”

The project focuses on the pre-Internet era of the movement, digitising stories that may otherwise be lost - like those stored on cassette and video tapes - so that younger generations can discover the impact hip hop has had on the politics and culture of the city.

David Renwick, director of England North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, commented: “Music is at the heart of Manchester’s heritage, and it is a city renowned for being at the forefront of many musical movements. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened many of the music venues across the city, and it’s incredibly important that we support projects like this to make sure we keep this community history alive.”

Some of the archive collaborators MHHA

As part of the project, the team will be running events and courses in schools. Training opportunities will also be available to equip young people with skills such as recording oral histories, digital archiving and social media to empower them to continue the story.

In order to complete the archives, the team are also calling on the people of Manchester to contribute their stories whether it be an iconic hip hop performance, creating a graffiti mural with a socio-political message or setting up a pirate radio station.

For further information and to submit your story, visit the project on Facebook or Instagram.

'Suffrajitsu': How the suffragettes fought back using martial arts

The film Suffragette, which is due for release, portrays the struggle by British women to win the vote. They were exposed to violence and intimidation as their campaign became more militant. So they taught themselves the martial art of jiu-jitsu.

Edith Garrud was a tiny woman. Measuring 4ft 11in (150cm) in height she appeared no match for the officers of the Metropolitan Police - required to be at least 5ft 10in (178cm) tall at the time. But she had a secret weapon.

In the run-up to World War One, Garrud became a jiu-jitsu instructor to the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), better known as the suffragettes, taking part in an increasingly violent campaign for votes for women.

Sick of the lack of progress, they resorted to civil disobedience, marches and illegal activities including assault and arson.

The struggle in the years before the war became increasingly bitter. Women were arrested and, when they went on hunger strike, were force-fed using rubber tubes. While out on marches, many complained of being manhandled and knocked to the ground. Things took a darker turn after "Black Friday" on 18 November 1910.

A group of around 300 suffragettes met a wall of policemen outside Parliament. Heavily outnumbered, the women were assaulted by both police and male vigilantes in the crowd. Many sustained serious injuries and two women died as a result. More than 100 suffragettes were arrested.

"A lot said they had been groped by the police and male bystanders," says Elizabeth Crawford, author of The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide. "After that, women didn't go to these demonstrations unprepared."

Some started putting cardboard over their ribs for protection. But Garrud was already teaching the WSPU to fight back. Her chosen method was the ancient Japanese martial art of jiu-jitsu. It emphasised using the attacker's force against them, channelling their momentum and targeting their pressure points.

The first connection between the suffragettes and jiu-jitsu was made at a WSPU meeting. Garrud and her husband William, who ran a martial arts school in London's Golden Square together, had been booked to attend. But William was ill, so she went alone.

"Edith normally did the demonstrating, while William did the speaking," says Tony Wolf, writer of Suffrajitsu, a trilogy of graphic novels about this aspect of the suffragette movement. "But the story goes that the WSPU's leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, encouraged Edith to do the talking for once, which she did."

Garrud began teaching some of the suffragettes. "At that time it was more about defending themselves against angry hecklers in the audience who got on stage, rather than police," says Wolf. "There had been several attempted assaults."

By about 1910 she was regularly running suffragette-only classes and had written for the WSPU's newspaper, Votes for Women. Her article stressed the suitability of jiu-jitsu for the situation in which the WSPU found itself - that is, having to deal with a larger, more powerful force in the shape of the police and government.

The press noticed. Health and Strength magazine printed a satirical article called "Jiu-jitsuffragettes". Punch magazine showed a cartoon of Garrud standing alone against several policemen, entitled "The suffragette that knew jiu-jitsu". The term "suffrajitsu" soon came into common use.

"They wouldn't have expected in those days that women could respond physically to that kind of action, let alone put up effective resistance," says Martin Dixon, chairman of the British Jiu-Jitsu Association. "It was an ideal way for them to handle being grabbed while in a crowd situation."

The Pankhursts agreed and encouraged all suffragettes to learn the martial art. "The police know jiu-jitsu. I advise you to learn jiu-jitsu. Women should practice it as well as men," said Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline, in a 1913 speech.

As the years went on, confrontations between police and suffragettes became more intense. The so-called Cat and Mouse Act in 1913 allowed hunger-striking prisoners to be released and then re-incarcerated as soon as they had recovered their health.

"The WSPU felt that as Mrs Pankhurst had such a vital role to play as motivator and figurehead for the organisation that she was too important to be recaptured," says Emelyne Godfrey, author of Femininity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society.

She needed protectors so Garrud formed a group called The Bodyguard. It consisted of up to 30 women who undertook "dangerous duties," explains Godfrey. "Sometimes all they would get would be a phone call and instructions to follow a particular car."

The Bodyguard, nicknamed "Amazons" by the press, armed themselves with clubs hidden in their dresses.

They came in handy during a famous confrontation known as the "Battle of Glasgow" in early 1914.

The Bodyguard travelled overnight from London by train, their concealed clubs making the journey uncomfortable. A crowd was waiting to see Emmeline Pankhurst speak at St Andrew's Hall. But police had surrounded it, hoping to catch her.

Pankhurst evaded them on her way in by buying a ticket and pretending to be a spectator. The Bodyguard then got into position, sitting on a semi-circle of chairs behind the speaker's podium.

Suddenly Pankhurst appeared and started speaking. She did so for half a minute before police tried to storm the stage.

But they became caught on barbed wire hidden in bouquets. "So about 30 suffragettes and 50 police were involved in a brawl on stage in front of 4,000 people for several minutes," says Wolf.

Eventually police overwhelmed The Bodyguard and Pankhurst was once again arrested. But the difficulty they had in dragging her away showed just how effective her guards had become.

Garrud did not just teach them physical skills. They had also learnt to trick their opponents. In 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst gave a speech from a balcony in Camden Square.

When she emerged from the house in a veil, escorted by members of The Bodyguard, the police swooped in. Despite a fierce fight she was knocked to the ground and dragged away unconscious. But when the police triumphantly unveiled her, they realised she was a decoy. The real Pankhurst had been smuggled out in the commotion.

The emphasis on skill to defeat and outwit a larger opponent was what first impressed Garrud about jiu-jitsu. She came across it when her husband William attended a martial arts exhibition in 1899 and started taking lessons.

Suffragette City

Manchester Town Hall. Manchester, North West England, United Kingdom.

Manchester, the "Gateway to the North" of the United Kingdom (Liverpool and the moors of Yorkshire are not far away) is also known as the birth of the Suffragette Movement, started by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters in the industrial powerhouse that, at the time, was fueling the economy of Britain with cheap labor and a robust textile industry. The city was the economic backbone of the industrial revolution--you could say that it was the Silicon Valley of its day--but it was also the birthplace of the Socialist movement, the labor unions and other progressive communities.

It was in this hotbed of change, industry, money and power that an upper middle class widow, Emmeline Pankhurst, set about creating the Suffragette movement and alighting her phrase, "Deeds, not words," into vivid life.

You can see the pretty, light-filled parlor where Emmeline had the first meeting of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) after the death of her husband, Dr. Richard Pankhurst, a suffragette sympathizing barrister. The Pankhurst Centre is a pair of Victorian Villas that were once home to Emmeline and her three politically active daughters Sybil, Christabel and Adela. The family lived here between 1898 and 1907 at the height of the movement for votes for women.

The Pankhurst Centre, Manchester

Today, the Centre is a small museum enshrining their efforts but also serves as the home for Manchester Women's Aid, an organization providing aid to women dealing with domestic violence.

Parlour at the Pankhurst Centre

The Centre has a small bookshop where you can read the history of the movement but the heart of the house is a small, historically accurate front room where the Pankhursts would hold their political meetings. Some white and purple sashes are strung across a chair near the floor the ceiling windows.

Suffragette sashes on chair at Pankhurst Centre

The comfortable Edwardian furnishings belie the risk that these women were taking in agitating for women's suffrage. During the fight for women's votes, some women were killed and many were sent to prison and force fed when were on hunger strikes.

Mural enshrining Emmeline Pankhurst on wall of Affleck's store, Manchester

You can learn more about the climate of the times and the fight for Unions and other rights by either staying or visiting the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester hotel in the center of town. The hotel is in the former site of Manchester's Free Trade Hall, built in 1853 to celebrate the repeal of the Corn Laws. The building was set on the site of the famous Peterloo Massacre where peaceful protestors were charged by government calvary, killing 15 and injuring over 700 people.

The Radisson Blu Edwardian retains the architecture of the Free Trade Hall

It was in this building in 1905 that a defiant Christabel and fellow suffragette Annie Kenney interrupted a political meeting to gain exposure for votes for women. Attending the meeting while the women were arrested was the future Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who offered to pay their bail but was refused.

The building also was used for concerts, The Sex Pistols and Bob Dylan played here, Dylan famously going "electric" at the concert hall for the first time and causing a near riot of protest (it seems protest and Manchester go hand-in-hand).

Some of the suites are named after famed musicians who have played here like Dylan and David Bowie. The hotel has also just revived and renovated its Elemis spa and pool--one of the city's best known havens for creature comforts.

FILE - in this undated file photo, Emmeline Pankhurst, the famed leader of the militant suffragette . [+] movement during the votes for women campaign in Britain. Tuesday Feb. 6, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, passed in England on February 6 1918, which gave voting rights to certain women over the age of 30, a fundamental change to women's rights. (AP Photo, FILE)

Around the corner from the hotel, near the site of the Peterloo Massacre (also the subject of a new film by famed British director, Mike Leigh) is a new statue of Emmeline Pankhurst herself.

Unveiled in 2018, the 100th anniversary of women voting in Britain in the General Election, the sculpture by artist, Hazel Reeves, shows Emmeline on a chair in the midst of her "Rise up, women" speech (recently immortalized in the 2015 film, Suffragette, with the redoubtable Meryl Streep playing Emmeline).

Meryl Streep attends the LA Premiere of "Suffragette" held at Samuel Goldwyn Theater at AMPAS on . [+] Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP)

You can also walk through several centuries of political activism in Manchester (including the Suffragette Movement) at the People's History Museum where original Suffragette sashes, placards and even personal telegrams from Emmeline are on view.

Nearby, the Museum of Science and Industry brings the industrial backdrop that the Pankhursts were working in the vivid life. You can see full size textile machines moving (and making an ear-splitting noise) as well as hear how workers lives and limbs were often in the balance when in service to the factories that poet William Blake famously called "dark, Satanic mills."

Textile machinery, Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry

Finally, least you think the city has merely enshrined political and social activism and event, plan for a trip to Manchester for July 2019's Manchester International Festival and you can see and participate in Yoko Ono's massive installation, "Bells for Peace." There will be many other major events at the Festival, including the world premiere of Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott's, Tao of Glass

I’ve been to over 80 countries in all the continents of the world, starting my solo travels at age 13 as a student in Spain. Books, movies, paintings spark me to travel.

Mather & Co’s movement with the Pankhurst Centre

Leading exhibition designers, Mather & Co, have been appointed to develop a new permanent exhibition on the Pankhurst family at their former home, 62 Nelson Street in Manchester, now known as the Pankhurst Centre. This building is an iconic site for women’s activism, past, present, and future.

From 1898 to 1907, 62 Nelson Street was home to Emmeline Pankhurst and her family, and is where the first meeting of the suffragette movement took place. It’s where leading campaigners in the votes for women movement would gather and where Emmeline would first utter the call for action, “Deeds Not Words”.

Leanne Clydesdale, Project Designer at Mather & Co said: “I personally feel incredibly privileged to be part of the team working with the Pankhurst Centre on this new interpretation. The significance of this building not only in the story of the Pankhurst family and their role in the continuing campaign for women’s rights and freedoms, but also in the socio-political history of Manchester cannot be underrepresented. This building has an important story to tell and we hope to inspire debate and thought within its walls for many years to come.”

This project aims to inspire young audiences with the history of the suffragette movement and to empower the next generation to make change in the world we live in today. The exhibition will showcase the Pankhurst family’s achievements to visitors in new and engaging ways. The project has been made possible thanks to funding from AIM Biffa Award History Makers, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund.

Sarah Clarke, Managing Director at Mather & Co added: “The Pankhurst Centre is the only site dedicated to telling the story of women’s fight for the right to vote. I am proud of the fact The Pankhurst Centre acknowledged the strong female presence in our company at all levels of the business – which feels very empowering!”

Tessa Chynoweth, Curator of the Pankhurst Centre, said: “We are extremely grateful to our funders AIM Biffa Award History Makers for supporting us in this project. At Home with the Pankhurst Family will unlock the story of this unique family and highlight the significance this building has played in the history of women’s suffrage and its role in inspiring future changemakers. Mather & Co are working alongside us and our volunteers to create what will be a very special visitor experience. For the Pankhurst Trust this is a vital step forward in our vision to ultimately see the entire building conserved and restored.”

The completion of At Home with the Pankhurst Family will mark the reopening of the Pankhurst Centre, which has been closed due to the impact of Covid-19, and is due to take place in summer 2021.

Pankhurst Centre to reopen in 2021 with new exhibition after funding success

Manchester’s Pankhurst Centre will reopen in Summer 2021 with a new permanent exhibition, after securing funding that will help transform the museum.

Funding from the AIM Biffa Award History Makers will see the museum and former home of Emmeline Pankhurst present its new display, ‘At home with the Pankhursts’, and renovate the exhibition space.

After being closed to the public since March, the exhibition will showcase the lives of the Pankhurst family at the birth of the suffrage movement.

The grant money will go towards an exhibition designer, plus improving the museum’s interior space and its accessibility for a younger audience.

The centre has also secured an £87,617 grant from the National Lottery Heritage fund, which will support the Pankhurst Trust’s archive compilation, ‘Rooms of our Own: The Herstory of the Pankhurst Centre’.

The archive is a volunteer-led project, which categorises activist material that has been with the centre since the 1980s.

It will eventually be deposited at Manchester’s Central Library, where it will be made available to the public for the first time.

The project will also include a compilation of oral histories about the Pankhurst Centre, and creative workshops for young people.

The centre, which receives no public funding, relies heavily on grants and the work of volunteers to support the site.

It saw a record number of visitors at the year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, but less than a week later was forced to close under lockdown restrictions.

The centre received £28,000 in August from the National Lottery’s Heritage Emergency Fund to support its running costs during the pandemic.

Pankhurst Centre curator, Tessa Chynoweth, recognised that the emergency funding and grants have helped the museum survive the pandemic.

She said: “This year has been a huge learning curve, and we’ve been adapting to the guidelines as they are announced.

“It is our role to protect, share, learn from and inspire others with the story of the Pankhurst Centre. The funding of these projects will give us the opportunity to do this”.

In 2018, the Pankhurst Centre applied unsuccessfully for a £4 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which would have funded major reconstruction and maintenance to the Victorian building.

Museum staff hope its new redesign will be a step towards achieving these large-scale improvements when they next apply for the Heritage grant.

Ms Chynoweth said: “The work we do this year means the experience of visiting the centre will be radically different.

“We won’t be doing building work, but this will be such a leg up for us in terms of interpretation of the space”.

ICONIC: Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst

Watch the video: The Derby 1913 - Emily Davison trampled by Kings horse. BFI National Archive


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