Emmeline Pankhurst Notes

10 October 2016

‘Pankhurst was a leading British women’s rights activist, who led the movement to win the right for women to vote. ‘ BBC Emmeline Pankhurst was a women’s rights activist, also known as a suffragette. She campaigned for rights in the 19th century when women could not choose who they married, they had to obey men, very few jobs were available for women, they did not receive the same education as men, and were not granted the vote until 1918. Pankhurst was born Emmeline Goulden on 14 July 1858 in Manchester. Her family had a tradition of radical politics.

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In 1879, she married Richard Pankhurst, a lawyer and supporter of the women’s suffrage movement. However he died in 1898, leaving Emmeline a widow. In 1889, Emmeline founded the Women’s Franchise League, which fought to allow married women to vote in local elections. In October 1903, along with her daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, she helped found the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) – whose members were the first to be christened ‘suffragettes’. The WSPU was more militant than the Women’s Franchise League and The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, and it soon became notorious for its actions.

One of the WSPU’s most famous members includes Emily Davison. The demonstrations of the WSPU included window smashing, arson and hunger strikes which astonished Britons. In 1913, Emily Davison was killed when she threw herself under the king’s horse at the Derby as a protest at the government’s continued failure to grant women the right to vote. Like many suffragettes, Emmeline was arrested on numerous occasions over the next few years and went on hunger strike herself, resulting in violent force-feeding.

In 1913, in response to the wave of hunger strikes, the government passed what became known as the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act. Hunger striking prisoners were released until they grew strong again, and then re-arrested. This period of militancy was ended abruptly on the outbreak of war in 1914, when Emmeline turned her energies to supporting the war effort. In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30. Emmeline died aged 70 on 14 June 1928, shortly after women were granted equal voting rights with men.

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