Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst, the eldest daughter of ten children of Robert Goulden and Sophia Crane Gouldon, was born in Manchester on 15th July, 1858. Her father came from a family with radical political beliefs. Emmeline's grandfather had been one of the crowd at the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 took part in the campaigns against slavery and the Corn Laws. (1)

The eldest daughter in a family of ten children, Emmeline was expected to look after her younger brothers and sisters. "A precocious child, she learned to read at an early age and was set the task of reading the daily newspaper to her father as he breakfasted, an activity that led to the development of an interest in politics." (2)

Robert Gouldon was the successful owner of a cotton-printing company at Seedley. He had conventional ideas about education. Emmeline later recalled: "It was a custom of my father and mother to make the round of our bedrooms every night before going themselves to bed. When they entered my room that night I was still awake, but for some reason I chose to pretend I was asleep." She heard him say: "What a pity she wasn't born a lad." This incident had a long-term impact on Emmeline: "It was made quite clear that men considered themselves superior to women, and that women accepted this situation. I found this view of things difficult to reconcile with the fact that both my father and my mother were advocates of women having the vote". (3)

Robert Goulden was a friend of John Stuart Mill and supported his campaign to get women the vote. These views were communicated to his children and during the 1868 General Election, Emmeline and her younger sister, Mary, took part in a feminist demonstration. According to Martin Pugh, the author of The Pankhursts (2001), she attended her first suffrage meeting in 1872, hosted by veteran campaigner, Lydia Becker. (4)

After a short spell at a local school, Emmeline was sent to École Normale Supérieure, a finishing school in Paris in 1873. "The school was under the direction of Marchef Girard a woman who believed that girls' education should be quite as thorough as the education of boys. She included chemistry and other sciences in the course, and in addition to embroidery she had her girls taught bookkeeping. When I was nineteen I finally returned from school in Paris and took my place in my father's home as a finished young lady." (5)

According to her biographer: "She returned to Manchester having learnt to wear her hair and her clothes like a Parisian, a graceful, elegant young lady, much more mature in appearance than girls of her age today, with a slender, svelte figure, raven black hair, an olive skin with a slight flush of red in the cheeks, delicately pencilled black eyebrows, beautiful expressive eyes of an unusually deep violet blue, above all a magnificent carriage and a voice of remarkable melody... She was romantic, believed in constancy, held flirtation degrading, would only give herself to an important man." (6)

Soon after her returned to Manchester, she met the lawyer, Richard Pankhurst. A committed socialist, Richard was also a strong advocate of women's suffrage. Richard had been responsible for drafting an amendment to the Municipal Franchise Act of 1869 that had resulted in unmarried women householders being allowed to vote in local elections. Richard had served on the Married Women's Property Committee (1868-1870) and was the main person responsible for the drafting of the women's property bill that was passed by Parliament in 1870. (7)

Richard and Emmeline were immediately attracted to each other and although there was a significant age difference, he was forty-four and she was only twenty, Richard Goulden gave permission for the marriage to take place. Emmeline had four children in the first six years of marriage: Christabel Pankhurst (1880), Sylvia Pankhurst (1882), Frank (1884) and Adela Pankhurst (1885).

Richard Pankhurst became a leading figure in radical politics in Manchester. The Spectator, a journal that supported the Liberal Party, warned about his extreme political views. "He has pledged himself to Home Rule and the repeal of the Crimes Bill, and the Irish have, therefore, accepted him; the moderate Liberals say he is better than a Tory, and the extreme Radicals are attracted by his ideas, which they see to be philanthropic... Dr. Pankhurst will not vote with Mr. Gladstone, but against him. The Premier is for unity and order ; Dr. Pankhurst is for Home Rule and the repeal of the Crimes Act. Mr. Gladstone is for household suffrage; Dr. Pankhurst for universal suffrage of both sexes... We admit that Dr. Pankhurst is honestly dreaming; and therefore we prefer... a sensible Tory to Dr. Pankhurst." (8)

In 1886 the family moved to London where their home in Russell Square became a centre for gatherings of socialists and suffragists. They were also both members of the Fabian Society. At a young age, their children were encouraged to attend these meetings. This had a major impact on their political views. As June Purvis has pointed out: "Such experiences had a decisive effect on Christabel. Nothing she learned from the inadequate education offered by governesses or, when the family moved back to the north in 1893, at the high schools she attended - first in Southport and then in Manchester - compared with the political education she received at home." (9)

In June 1888, Clementina Black gave a speech on Female Labour at a Fabian Society meeting in London. Annie Besant, a member of the audience, was horrified when she heard about the pay and conditions of the women working at the Bryant & May match factory. The next day, Besant went and interviewed some of the people who worked at Bryant & May. She discovered that the women worked fourteen hours a day for a wage of less than five shillings a week. However, they did not always received their full wage because of a system of fines, ranging from three pence to one shilling, imposed by the Bryant & May management. Offences included talking, dropping matches or going to the toilet without permission. The women worked from 6.30 am in summer (8.00 in winter) to 6.00 pm. If workers were late, they were fined a half-day's pay. (10)

Annie Besant also discovered that the health of the women had been severely affected by the phosphorus that they used to make the matches. This caused yellowing of the skin and hair loss and phossy jaw, a form of bone cancer. The whole side of the face turned green and then black, discharging foul-smelling pus and finally death. Although phosphorous was banned in Sweden and the USA, the British government had refused to follow their example, arguing that it would be a restraint of free trade. (11)

On 23rd June 1888, Besant wrote an article in her newspaper, The Link. The article, entitled White Slavery in London, complained about the way the women at Bryant & May were being treated. The company reacted by attempting to force their workers to sign a statement that they were happy with their working conditions. When a group of women refused to sign, the organisers of the group was sacked. The response was immediate; 1400 of the women at Bryant & May went on strike. (12)

Besant helped the women to form a Matchgirls' Union and Besant agreed to become its leader. Emmeline Pankhurst became involved in the Matchgirls Strike. She later recalled in her autobiography: "I threw myself into this strike with enthusiasm, working with the girls and with some women of prominence, amongst these the celebrated Mrs Annie Besant... It was a time of tremendous unrest, of labour agitations, of strikes and lockouts. It was a time also when a most stupid reactionary spirit seemed to take possession of the Government and the authorities." (13)

After three weeks the company announced that it was willing to re-employ the dismissed women and would also bring an end to the fines system. The women accepted the terms and returned in triumph. The Bryant & May dispute was the first strike by unorganized workers to gain national publicity. It was also successful at helped to inspire the formation of unions all over the country. (14)

Richard and Emmeline Pankhurst became involved in left-wing politics. Visitors to their home included Keir Hardie, William Morris and Eleanor Marx. The couple continued their involvement in the struggle for women's rights and in 1889 helped form the pressure group, the Women's Franchise League. The organisation's main objective was to secure the vote for women in local elections. Powerful members of society were totally opposed to granting votes to women. Queen Victoria strongly expressed herself against this "mad folly of Women's Rights." (15)

In 1893 Richard and Emmeline returned to Manchester where they formed a branch of the new Independent Labour Party (ILP). This new party was more supportive of women's rights than older Socialist organizations. The Social Democratic Federation "viewed female aspirations essentially as an expression of bourgeois individualism" and although the Fabian Society "allowed female participation it remained indifferent towards votes for women". (16)

Women were allowed to be candidates to join the Poor Law Board of Guardians. However, because of property qualifications most women were ineligible and only a handful were elected. However, these qualifications were abolished by William Gladstone and his Liberal government in 1894 and later that year, Emmeline, with the support of the ILP, became a candidate for the Chorlton Board of Guardians. "Throwing herself into the new cause" she came top of the poll with 1,276 votes. (17)

Emmeline Pankhurst was a regular visitor to the Chorlton Workhouse. "When I came into office I found that the law was being very harshly administered. The old board had been made up of the kind of men who are known as rate-savers. They were guardians, not of the poor but of the rates… For instance, the inmates were being very poorly fed. I found the old folks in the workhouse sitting on backless forms, or benches. They had no privacy, no possessions, not even a locker. After I took office I gave the old people comfortable Windsor chairs to sit in, and in a number of ways we managed to make their existence more endurable".

She was also very concerned about the way the Workhouse treated young children: "The first time I went into the place I was horrified to see little girls seven and eight years on their knees scrubbing the cold stones of the long corridors. These little girls were clad, summer and winter, in thin cotton frocks, low in the neck and short sleeved. At night they wore nothing at all, night dresses being considered too good for paupers. The fact that bronchitis was epidemic among them most of the time had not suggested to the guardians any change in the fashion of their clothes." (18)

Most weeks in 1894 the Chorlton Board of Guardians provided outdoor relief to 3,573 persons and supported another 2,063 inside the workhouse. Its annual expenditure was £35,000. In her first year Emmeline sat on sub-committees for Schools, Female Cases, Lunatic Wards and the Relief Committee. She was shocked to discover that inmates were obliged to wear a uniform, had nowhere to keep personal possessions and that husbands and wives were usually separated. Her attempts at achieving reforms usually ended in failure and most of the Guardians supported the status quo. (19)

Emmeline pointed out that women in the workhouse were far more useful than the men. "Old women, over sixty and seventy years of age, did most of the work of that place, most of the sewing, most of the things that kept the house clean and which supplied the inmates with clothing. I found that the old men were different. One could not get very much work out of them." She discovered that a "great many were of the domestic-servant class, who had not married, who had lost their employment, and had reached a time of life when it was impossible to get more employment. It was through no fault of their own, but simply because they had never earned enough to save."

Women she argued, got a very rough deal in the workhouse. "I also found pregnant women in the workhouse, scrubbing floors, doing the hardest kind of work, almost until their babies came into the world. Many of them were unmarried women, very, very young, mere girls. These poor mothers were allowed to stay in the hospital after confinement for a short two weeks. Then they had to make a choice of staying in the workhouse and earning their living by scrubbing and other work, in which case they were separated from their babies. They could stay and be paupers, or they could leave - leave with a two-week-old baby in their arms, without hope, without home, without money, without anywhere to go. What became of those girls, and what became of their hapless infants?" (20)

Emmeline and Richard Pankhurst became convinced that these problems would only be solved by socialism and thought the best way forward was being active members of the Independent Labour Party (ILP). It was decided that the main objective of the party would be "to secure the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange". Leading figures in this new organisation included Robert Smillie, George Bernard Shaw, Tom Mann, George Barnes, Pete Curran, John Glasier, Katherine Glasier, H. H. Champion, Ben Tillett, Philip Snowden, Edward Carpenter and Ramsay Macdonald. (21)

In the 1895 General Election, Richard stood as the ILP candidate for Gorton, an industrial suburb of the city. Emmeline Pankhurst and her two eldest daughters became involved in the campaign. Sylvia Pankhurst later recalled that many of the voters "added they would not vote for him this time, as he had no chance now; but next time he would get in... they seemed to regard the election as a sort of game, in which it was important to vote on the winning side". The Conservative Party candidate received 5,865 votes compared to Pankhurst's 4,261. (22)

In 1895 the ILP had 35,000 members. However, in the 1895 General Election the ILP put up 28 candidates but won only 44,325 votes. All the candidates were defeated but the ILP began to have success in local elections. Over 600 won seats on borough councils and in 1898 the ILP joined with the the SDF to make West Ham the first local authority to have a Labour majority. This example convinced Keir Hardie that to obtain national electoral success, it would be necessary to join forces with other left-wing groups. (23)

Emmeline and Richard Pankhurst began organizing Sunday open-air meetings in the local park. The local authority declared that these meetings were illegal and speakers began to be arrested and imprisoned. Pankhurst invited Keir Hardie to speak at one of these meetings. On 12th July, 1896, over 50,000 turned up to hear Hardie, but soon after he started speaking, he was arrested. The Home Secretary, worried by the publicity Hardie was getting, intervened, and used his power to have the leader of the ILP released. (24)

Sylvia Pankhurst believed that it was her father's passion for socialism that convinced her mother this was the right way forward. One night he talked of "life and its work". She remembers her father telling her that "life is valueless without enthusiasms". He "often, he emphasized that thought, which was the guiding mentor of his being". Sylvia became concerned about the decline in her father's health. (25)

Richard Pankhurst died of a perforated ulcer on 5th July, 1898. "Faithful and True My Loving Comrade", a quote from Walt Whitman, were the words she choose for his gravestone. Without her husband's income, Emmeline Pankhurst had to sell their home and move to a cheaper residence at 62 Nelson Street, Manchester. She was also forced to accept the post of registrar of births and deaths. (26)

On 27th February 1900, representatives of all the socialist groups in Britain (the Independent Labour Party (ILP), the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) and the Fabian Society, met with trade union leaders at the Congregational Memorial Hall in Farringdon Street. After a debate the 129 delegates decided to pass the motion proposed by Keir Hardie to establish "a distinct Labour group in Parliament, who shall have their own whips, and agree upon their policy, which must embrace a readiness to cooperate with any party which for the time being may be engaged in promoting legislation in the direct interests of labour." To make this possible the Conference established a Labour Representation Committee (LRC). (27)

Emmeline Pankhurst hoped the new Labour Party would support votes for women on the same terms as men. Although the party made it clear in its programme it favoured equal rights for men and women. Hardie argued for "the vote for women on the same terms as it is or may be granted to men". However, others in the party, including Isabella Ford, thought that as large number of working-class males did not have the vote, they should be demanding "full adult suffrage". Philip Snowden pointed out that if only middle-class women got the vote it would favour the Conservative Party. This was also the view of left-wing members of the Liberal Party such as David Lloyd George. (28)

In the 1902 Labour Party conference Emmeline Pankhurst created controversy when she proposed that "in order to improve the economic and social condition of women, it is necessary to take immediate steps to secure the granting of the suffrage to women on the same terms as it is, or may be, granted to men". This was not accepted and instead a resolution calling for "adult suffrage" became party policy.

Pankhurst's views on limited suffrage received a great deal of criticism. One of its leaders, John Bruce Glasier, had been a long-term supporter of universal suffrage, and like his wife, Katharine Glasier, was particularly opposed to Pankhurst's views. He recorded in his diary that he disapproved of her "individualist sexism". At a meeting with Emmeline and her daughter, Christabel Pankhurst, he claimed that the two women "were not seeking democratic freedom, but self-importance". (29) Trade union leader, Henry Snell, agreed: "Mrs. Pankhurst was magnetic, courageous, audacious, and resolute. Mrs. Pankhurst was an autocrat masquerading as a democrat". (30)

After her defeat at conference, Emmeline Pankhurst decided to leave the Labour Party and decided to establish the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Emmeline stated that the main aim of the organisation was to recruit working class women into the struggle for the vote. "We resolved to limit our membership exclusively to women, to keep ourselves absolutely free from ant party affiliation, and to be satisfied with nothing but action on our question. Deeds, not words, was to be our permanent motto." (31)

Some early members included Christabel Pankhurst, Sylvia Pankhurst, Adela Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Marion Wallace-Dunlop, Elizabeth Robins, Flora Drummond, Annie Kenney, Mary Gawthorpe, May Billinghurst, Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy, Mary Allen, Winifred Batho, Mary Leigh, Mary Richardson, Ethel Smyth, Teresa Billington-Greig, Helen Crawfurd, Emily Davison, Charlotte Despard, Mary Clarke, Margaret Haig Thomas, Cicely Hamilton, Eveline Haverfield, Edith How-Martyn, Constance Lytton, Kitty Marion, Dora Marsden, Hannah Mitchell, Margaret Nevinson, Evelyn Sharp, Nellie Martel, Helen Fraser, Minnie Baldock and Octavia Wilberforce.

The main objective was to gain, not universal suffrage, the vote for all women and men over a certain age, but votes for women, “on the same basis as men.” This meant winning the vote not for all women but for only the small stratum of women who could meet the property qualification. As one critic suggested, it was "not votes for women", but “votes for ladies.” As an early member of the WSPU, Dora Montefiore, pointed out: "The work of the Women’s Social and Political Union was begun by Mrs. Pankhurst in Manchester, and by a group of women in London who had revolted against the inertia and conventionalism which seemed to have fastened upon... the NUWSS." (32)

The forming of the WSPU upset both the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and the Labour Party, the only party at the time that supported universal suffrage. They pointed out that in 1903 only a third of men had the vote in parliamentary elections. On the 16th December 1904, The Clarion published a letter from Ada Nield Chew, attacking WSPU policy: "The entire class of wealthy women would be enfranchised, that the great body of working women, married or single, would be voteless still, and that to give wealthy women a vote would mean that they, voting naturally in their own interests, would help to swamp the vote of the enlightened working man, who is trying to get Labour men into Parliament." (33)

Teresa Billington Greig found Emmeline Pankhurst a difficult colleague: "To work alongside of her day by day was to run the risk of losing yourself. She was ruthless in using the followers she gathered around her, as she was ruthless to herself. She took advantage of both their strengths and their weaknesses suffered with you and for you while she believed she was shaping you and used every device of suppression when the revolt against the shaping came. She was a most astute statesman, a skilled politician, a self-dedicated reshaper of the world - and a dictator without mercy". (34)

Emmeline Pankhurst was an impressive orator: "The crowd came - packing the hall to overflowing. The rowdy youths came. And one other factor I had scarcely fully reckoned upon came - Mrs. Pankhurst. She held that audience in the hollow of her hand. When a youth interrupted she turned and dealt with him, silenced him, and, without faltering in the thread of her speech, used him as an illustration of an argument. The audience was so intent to hear every word that even when one little group of youths let out that aforementioned evil-smelling gas it did no more than cause a faint stir in one small corner of the hall. As Mrs. Pankhurst continued the interruptions got fewer and fewer, and at last ceased altogether. Even when at the end came question-time, members of the audience were uncommonly chary of delivering themselves into her hands. That meeting was a revelation of the power of a great speaker." (35)

By 1905 the media had lost interest in the struggle for women's rights. Newspapers rarely reported meetings and usually refused to publish articles and letters written by supporters of women's suffrage. In 1905 the WSPU decided to use different methods to obtain the publicity they thought would be needed in order to obtain the vote. It seemed certain that the Liberal Party would form the next government. Therefore, the WSPU decided to target leading figures in the party. (36)

On 13th October 1905, Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney attended a meeting in London to hear Sir Edward Grey, a minister in the British government. When Grey was talking, the two women constantly shouted out, "Will the Liberal Government give votes to women?" When the women refused to stop shouting the police were called to evict them from the meeting. Pankhurst and Kenney refused to leave and during the struggle a policeman claimed the two women kicked and spat at him. Pankhurst and Kenney were both arrested. (37)

Christabel Pankhurst was charged with assaulting the police and Annie Kenney with obstruction. They were both found guilty. Pankhurst was fined ten shillings or a jail sentence of one week. Kenney was fined five shillings, with an alternative of three days in prison. When the women refused to pay the fine they were sent to prison. The case shocked the nation. For the first time in Britain women had used violence in an attempt to win the vote. (38)

Emmeline Pankhurst was very pleased with the publicity achieved by the two women. "The comments of the press were almost unanimously bitter. Ignoring the perfectly well-established fact that men in every political meeting ask questions and demand answers of the speakers, the newspapers treated the action of the two girls as something quite unprecedented and outrageous... Newspapers which had heretofore ignored the whole subject now hinted that while they had formerly been in favour of women's suffrage, they could no longer countenance it." (39)

In the 1906 General Election the Liberal Party won 399 seats and gave them a large majority over the Conservative Party (156) and the Labour Party (29). Pankhurst hoped that Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the new prime minister, and his Liberal government, would give women the vote. However, several Liberal MPs were strongly against this. It was pointed out that there were a million more adult women than men in Britain. It was suggested that women would vote not as citizens but as women and would "swamp men with their votes". (40)

Campbell-Bannerman gave his personal support to Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), though he warned them that he could not persuade his colleagues to support the legislation that would make their aspiration a reality. Despite the unwillingness of the Liberal government to introduce legislation, Fawcett remained committed to the use of constitutional methods to gain votes for women. However, Pankhurst took a very different view. (41)

On 23rd October, 1906, Emmeline Pankhurst organised a huge rally in Caxton Hall, and a deputation went to the House of Commons to demand the vote: She later wrote about this in her autobiography, My Own Story (1914): "Those women had followed me to the House of Commons. They had defied the police. They were awake at last thev were prepared to do something that women had never done before - fight for themselves. Women had always fought for men, and for their children. Now they were ready to light for their own human rights. Our militant movement was established.'' (42)

To coincide with the opening of parliament on 13th February 1907 the WSPU organized the first Women's Parliament at Caxton Hall. The women were confronted by mounted police. Fifty-eight women appeared in court as a result of the conflict. Most of those arrested received seven to fourteen days in Holloway Prison, though Sylvia Pankhurst and Charlotte Despard got three weeks. (43)

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Some leading members of the Women's Social and Political Union began to question the leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst. These women objected to the way that the Pankhursts were making decisions without consulting members. They also felt that a small group of wealthy women like Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence were having too much influence over the organisation. In the autumn of 1907, Teresa Billington-Greig, Elizabeth How-Martyn, Dora Marsden, Helena Normanton, Margaret Nevinson and Charlotte Despard and seventy other members of the WSPU left to form the Women's Freedom League (WFL). (44)

In February, 1908, Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested and was sentenced to six weeks in prison. Fran Abrams the author of Freedom's Cause (2003), explained how she reacted to the situation: "Emmeline knew what to expect - she had by then heard graphic descriptions of prison life from Sylvia and Adela as well as from Christabel. She was shocked, though, when the wardress asked her to undress in order to put on her prison uniform - stained underwear, rough brown and red striped stockings and a dress with arrows on it. She was given coarse but clean sheets, a towel, a mug of cold cocoa and a thick slice of brown bread, and taken to her cell. Second division prisoners were kept in solitary confinement and were let out of their cells only for an hour's exercise each day. They were not allowed to receive letters for four weeks. Even though she had prepared herself for the experience, the reality hit her harder than she had anticipated." (45)

On 25th June 1909, Marion Wallace-Dunlop was found guilty of wilful damage and when she refused to pay a fine she was sent to prison for a month. On 5th July, 1909 she petitioned the governor of Holloway Prison: “I claim the right recognized by all civilized nations that a person imprisoned for a political offence should have first-division treatment; and as a matter of principle, not only for my own sake but for the sake of others who may come after me, I am now refusing all food until this matter is settled to my satisfaction.” (46)

Wallace-Dunlop refused to eat for several days. Afraid that she might die and become a martyr, it was decided to release her. According to Joseph Lennon: "She came to her prison cell as a militant suffragette, but also as a talented artist intent on challenging contemporary images of women. After she had fasted for ninety-one hours in London’s Holloway Prison, the Home Office ordered her unconditional release on July 8, 1909, as her health, already weak, began to fail". (47)

On 22nd September 1909 Charlotte Marsh, Laura Ainsworth and Mary Leigh were arrested while disrupting a public meeting being held by Herbert Asquith. Marsh, Ainsworth and Leigh were all sentenced to two weeks' imprisonment. They immediately decided to go on hunger-strike, a strategy developed by Marion Wallace-Dunlop a few weeks earlier. Wallace-Dunlop had been immediately released when she had tried this in Holloway Prison, but the governor of Winson Green Prison, was willing to feed the three women by force. (48)

Mary Leigh, described what it was like to be force-fed: "On Saturday afternoon the wardress forced me onto the bed and two doctors came in. While I was held down a nasal tube was inserted. It is two yards long, with a funnel at the end; there is a glass junction in the middle to see if the liquid is passing. The end is put up the right and left nostril on alternative days. The sensation is most painful - the drums of the ears seem to be bursting and there is a horrible pain in the throat and the breast. The tube is pushed down 20 inches. I am on the bed pinned down by wardresses, one doctor holds the funnel end, and the other doctor forces the other end up the nostrils. The one holding the funnel end pours the liquid down - about a pint of milk... egg and milk is sometimes used." Leigh's graphic account of the horrors of forcible feeding was published while she was still in prison. (49)

Hunger-strikes now became the accepted strategy of the WSPU. In one eighteen month period, Emmeline Pankhurst endured ten hunger-strikes. She later recalled: "Hunger-striking reduces a prisoner's weight very quickly, but thirst-striking reduces weight so alarmingly fast that prison doctors were at first thrown into absolute panic of fright. Later they became somewhat hardened, but even now they regard the thirst-strike with terror. I am not sure that I can convey to the reader the effect of days spent without a single drop of water taken into the system. The body cannot endure loss of moisture. It cries out in protest with every nerve. The muscles waste, the skin becomes shrunken and flabby, the facial appearance alters horribly, all these outward symptoms being eloquent of the acute suffering of the entire physical being. Every natural function is, of course, suspended, and the poisons which are unable to pass out of the body are retained and absorbed." (50)

In January 1910, Herbert Asquith called a general election in order to obtain a new mandate. However, the Liberals lost votes and was forced to rely on the support of the 42 Labour Party MPs to govern. Henry Brailsford, a member of the Men's League For Women's Suffrage wrote to Millicent Fawcett, suggesting that he should attempt to establish a Conciliation Committee for Women's Suffrage. "My idea is that it should undertake the necessary diplomatic work of promoting an early settlement". (51)

Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett both agreed to the idea and the WSPU declared a truce in which all militant activities would cease until the fate of the Conciliation Bill was clear. A Conciliation Committee, composed of 36 MPs (25 Liberals, 17 Conservatives, 6 Labour and 6 Irish Nationalists) all in favour of some sort of women's enfranchisement, was formed and drafted a Bill which would have enfranchised only a million women but which would, they hoped, gain the support of all but the most dedicated anti-suffragists. (52) Fawcett wrote that "personally many suffragists would prefer a less restricted measure, but the immense importance and gain to our movement is getting the most effective of all the existing franchises thrown upon to woman cannot be exaggerated." (53)

The Conciliation Bill was designed to conciliate the suffragist movement by giving a limited number of women the vote, according to their property holdings and marital status. After a two-day debate in July 1910, the Conciliation Bill was carried by 109 votes and it was agreed to send it away to be amended by a House of Commons committee. However, before they completed the task, Asquith called another election in order to get a clear majority. However, the result was very similar and Asquith still had to rely on the support of the Labour Party to govern the country. (54)

The Conciliation Bill was designed to conciliate the suffragist movement by giving a limited number of women the vote, according to their property holdings and marital status. After a two-day debate in July 1910, the Conciliation Bill was carried by 109 votes and it was agreed to send it away to be amended by a House of Commons committee. Asquith made a speech where he made it clear that he intended to shelve the Conciliation Bill.

On hearing the news, Emmeline Pankhurst, led 300 women from a pre-arranged meeting at the Caxton Hall to the House of Commons on 18th November, 1910. Sylvia Pankhurst was one of the women who took part in the protest and experienced the violent way the police dealt with the women: "I saw Ada Wright knocked down a dozen times in succession. A tall man with a silk hat fought to protect her as she lay on the ground, but a group of policemen thrust him away, seized her again, hurled her into the crowd and felled her again as she turned. Later I saw her lying against the wall of the House of Lords, with a group of anxious women kneeling round her. Two girls with linked arms were being dragged about by two uniformed policemen. One of a group of officers in plain clothes ran up and kicked one of the girls, whilst the others laughed and jeered at her." (54a)

Henry Brailsford was commissioned to write a report on the way that the police dealt with the demonstration. He took testimony from a large number of women, including Mary Frances Earl: "In the struggle the police were most brutal and indecent. They deliberately tore my undergarments, using the most foul language - such language as I could not repeat. They seized me by the hair and forced me up the steps on my knees, refusing to allow me to regain my footing... The police, I understand, were brought specially from Whitechapel." (54b)

Paul Foot, the author of The Vote (2005) has pointed out, Brailsford and his committee obtained "enough irrefutable testimony not just of brutality by the police but also of indecent assault - now becoming a common practice among police officers - to shock many newspaper editors, and the report was published widely". (54c) However, Edward Henry, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, claimed that the sexual assaults were committed by members of the public: "Amongst this crowd were many undesirable and reckless persons quite capable of indulging in gross conduct." (54d)

A new Conciliation Bill was passed by the House of Commons on 5th May 1911 with a majority of 167. The main opposition came from Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, who saw it as being "anti-democratic". He argued "Of the 18,000 women voters it is calculated that 90,000 are working women, earning their living. What about the other half? The basic principle of the Bill is to deny votes to those who are upon the whole the best of their sex. We are asked by the Bill to defend the proposition that a spinster of means living in the interest of man-made capital is to have a vote, and the working man's wife is to be denied a vote even if she is a wage-earner and a wife." (55)

David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was officially in favour of woman's suffrage. However, he had told his close associates, such as Charles Masterman, the Liberal MP in West Ham North: "He (David Lloyd George) was very much disturbed about the Conciliation Bill, of which he highly disapproved although he is a universal suffragist... We had promised a week (or more) for its full discussion. Again and again he cursed that promise. He could not see how we could get out of it, yet he regarded it as fatal (if passed)." (56)

Lloyd George was convinced that the chief effect of the Bill, if it became law, would be to hand more votes to the Conservative Party. During the debate on the Conciliation Bill he stated that justice and political necessity argued against enfranchising women of property but denying the vote to the working class. The following day Herbert Asquith announced that in the next session of Parliament he would introduce a Bill to enfranchise the four million men currently excluded from voting and suggested it could be amended to include women. Paul Foot has pointed out that as the Tories were against universal suffrage, the new Bill "smashed the fragile alliance between pro-suffrage Liberals and Tories that had been built on the Conciliation Bill." (57)

Millicent Fawcett still believed in the good faith of the Asquith government. However, the WSPU, reacted very differently: "Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst had invested a good deal of capital in the Conciliation Bill and had prepared themselves for the triumph which a women-only bill would entail. A general reform bill would have deprived them of some, at least, of the glory, for even though it seemed likely to give the vote to far more women, this was incidental to its main purpose." (58)

Christabel Pankhurst wrote in Votes for Women that Lloyd George's proposal to give votes to seven million instead of one million women was, she said, intended "not, as he professes, to secure to women a larger measure of enfranchisement but to prevent women from having the vote at all" because it would be impossible to get the legislation passed by Parliament. (59)

On 21st November, the WSPU carried out an "official" window smash along Whitehall and Fleet Street. This involved the offices of the Daily Mail and the Daily News and the official residences or homes of leading Liberal politicians, Herbert Asquith, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Edward Grey, John Burns and Lewis Harcourt. It was reported that "160 suffragettes were arrested, but all except those charged with window-breaking or assault were discharged." (60)

The following month Millicent Fawcett wrote to her sister, Elizabeth Garrett: "We have the best chance of Women's Suffrage next session that we have ever had, by far, if it is not destroyed by disgusting masses of people by revolutionary violence." Elizabeth agreed and replied: "I am quite with you about the WSPU. I think they are quite wrong. I wrote to Miss Pankhurst... I have now told her I can go no more with them." (61)

Henry Brailsford went to see the Emmeline Pankhurst and asked her to control her members in order to get the legislation passed by Parliament. She replied "I wish I had never heard of that abominable Conciliation Bill!" and Christabel Pankhurst called for more militant actions. The Conciliation Bill was debated in March 1912, and was defeated by 14 votes. Asquith claimed that the reason why his government did not back the issue was because they were committed to a full franchise reform bill. However, he never kept his promise and a new bill never appeared before Parliament. (62)

Some members of the WSPU, including Adela Pankhurst became concerned about the increase in the violence as a strategy. She later told fellow member, Helen Fraser: "I knew all too well that after 1910 we were rapidly losing ground. I even tried to tell Christabel this was the case, but unfortunately she took it amiss." After arguing with Emmeline Pankhurst about this issue she left the WSPU in October 1911. Sylvia Pankhurst was also critical of this new militancy. (63)

Margery Corbett was a member of the NUWSS when she met Emmeline and Sylvia in 1911. "I talked to Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Sylvia. I admired their wonderful courage, but when they started hurting other people, I had to decide whether I wanted to go on working with the constitutional movement, or whether I would join the militants. Eventually I decided to remain a constitutional." (64)

In 1912 the WSPU organised a new campaign that involved the large-scale smashing of shop-windows. Frederick Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence both disagreed with this strategy but Christabel Pankhurst ignored their objections. As soon as this wholesale smashing of shop windows began, the government ordered the arrest of the leaders of the WSPU. Christabel escaped to France but Frederick and Emmeline were arrested, tried and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. They were also successfully sued for the cost of the damage caused by the WSPU.

Emmeline Pankhurst was one of those arrested. Once again she went on hunger strike: "I generally suffer most on the second day. After that there is no very desperate craving for food. weakness and mental depression take its place. Great disturbances of digestion divert the desire for food to a longing for relief from pain. Often there is intense headache, with fits of dizziness, or slight delirium. Complete exhaustion and a feeling of isolation from earth mark the final stages of the ordeal. Recovery is often protracted, and entire recovery of normal health is sometimes discouragingly slow." After she was released from prison she was nursed by Catherine Pine. (65)

Emmeline Pankhurst gave permission for her daughter, Christabel Pankhurst, to launch a secret arson campaign. She knew that she was likely to be arrested and so she decided to move to Paris. Attempts were made by suffragettes to burn down the houses of two members of the government who opposed women having the vote. These attempts failed but soon afterwards, a house being built for David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was badly damaged by suffragettes. (66)

At a meeting in France, Christabel Pankhurst told Frederick Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence about the proposed arson campaign. When they objected, Christabel arranged for them to be expelled from the the organisation. Emmeline later recalled in her autobiography, My Part in a Changing World (1938): "My husband and I were not prepared to accept this decision as final. We felt that Christabel, who had lived for so many years with us in closest intimacy, could not be party to it. But when we met again to go further into the question… Christabel made it quite clear that she had no further use for us." (67)

One of the first arsonists was Mary Richardson. She later recalled the first time she set fire to a building: "I took the things from her and went on to the mansion. The putty of one of the ground-floor windows was old and broke away easily, and I had soon knocked out a large pane of the glass. When I climbed inside into the blackness it was a horrible moment. The place was frighteningly strange and pitch dark, smelling of damp and decay... A ghastly fear took possession of me; and, when my face wiped against a cobweb, I was momentarily stiff with fright. But I knew how to lay a fire - I had built many a camp fire in my young days -a nd that part of the work was simple and quickly done. I poured the inflammable liquid over everything; then I made a long fuse of twisted cotton wool, soaking that too as I unwound it and slowly made my way back to the window at which I had entered." (68)

Sylvia Pankhurst was also very unhappy that the WSPU had abandoned its earlier commitment to socialism and disagreed with Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's attempts to gain middle class support by arguing in favour of a limited franchise. She made the final break with the WSPU when the movement adopted a policy of widespread arson. Sylvia now concentrated her efforts on helping the Labour Party build up its support in London.

Emmeline was now estranged from two of her daughters. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence wrote to Sylvia Pankhurst about her mother: "I believe she conceived her objective in the spirit of generous enthusiasm. In the end it obsessed her like a passion and she completely identified her own career with it in order to obtain it. She threw scruple, affection, honour, legality and her own principles to the winds." (69)

In January 1913, Emmeline Pankhurst made a speech where she stated that it was now clear that Herbert Asquith had no intention to introduce legislation that would give women the vote. She now declared war on the government and took full responsibility for all acts of militancy. "Over the next eighteen months, the WSPU was increasingly driven underground as it engaged in destruction of property, including setting fire to pillar boxes, raising false fire alarms, arson and bombing, attacking art treasures, large-scale window smashing campaigns, the cutting of telegraph and telephone wires, and damaging golf courses". (70)

The women responsible for these arson attacks were often caught and once in prison they went on hunger-strike. Determined to avoid these women becoming martyrs, the government introduced the Prisoner's Temporary Discharge of Ill Health Act. Suffragettes were now allowed to go on hunger strike but as soon as they became ill they were released. Once the women had recovered, the police re-arrested them and returned them to prison where they completed their sentences. This successful means of dealing with hunger strikes became known as the Cat and Mouse Act. (71)

On 24th February 1913, Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested for procuring and inciting persons to commit offences contrary to the Malicious Injuries to Property Act 1861. The Times reported: "Mrs Pankhurst, who conducted her own defence, was found guilty, with a strong recommendation to mercy, and Mr Justice Lush sentenced her to three years' penal servitude. She had previously declared her intention to resist strenuously the prison treatment until she was released. A scene of uproar followed the passing of the sentence." (72)

After going nine days without eating, they released her for fifteen days so she could recover her health. "They sent me away, sitting bolt upright in a cab, unmindful of the fact that I was in a dangerous condition of weakness, having lost two stone in weight and suffered seriously from irregularities of heart action." On 26th May, 1913, when Emmeline Pankhurst attempted to attend a meeting, she was arrested and returned to prison. (73)

In June, 1913, at the most important race of the year, the Derby, Emily Davison ran out on the course and attempted to grab the bridle of Anmer, a horse owned by King George V. The horse hit Emily and the impact fractured her skull and she died without regaining consciousness. Although many suffragettes endangered their lives by hunger strikes, Emily Davison was the only one who deliberately risked death. However, her actions did not have the desired impact on the general public. They appeared to be more concerned with the health of the horse and jockey and Davison was condemned as a mentally ill fanatic. (74)

During this period Kitty Marion was the leading figure in the WSPU arson campaign and she was responsible for setting fire to Levetleigh House at St Leonards (April 1913), the Grandstand at Hurst Park racecourse (June 1913) and various houses in Liverpool (August, 1913) and Manchester (November, 1913). These incidents resulted in a series of further terms of imprisonment during which force-feeding occurred followed by release under the Cat & Mouse Act. It has been calculated that Marion endured 200 force-feedings in prison while on hunger strike. (75)

The British government declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914. Two days later, Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the NUWSS declared that the organization was suspending all political activity until the conflict was over. Fawcett supported the war effort but she refused to become involved in persuading young men to join the armed forces. This WSPU took a different view to the war. It was a spent force with very few active members. According to Martin Pugh, the WSPU were aware "that their campaign had been no more successful in winning the vote than that of the non-militants whom they so freely derided". (76)

The WSPU carried out secret negotiations with the government and on the 10th August the government announced it was releasing all suffragettes from prison. In return, the WSPU agreed to end their militant activities and help the war effort. Christabel Pankhurst, arrived back in England after living in exile in Paris. She told the press: "I feel that my duty lies in England now, and I have come back. The British citizenship for which we suffragettes have been fighting is now in jeopardy." (77)

After receiving a £2,000 grant from the government, the WSPU organised a demonstration in London. Members carried banners with slogans such as "We Demand the Right to Serve", "For Men Must Fight and Women Must Work" and "Let None Be Kaiser's Cat's Paws". At the meeting, attended by 30,000 people, Emmeline Pankhurst called on trade unions to let women work in those industries traditionally dominated by men. She told the audience: "What would be the good of a vote without a country to vote in!". (78)

In October 1915, The WSPU changed its newspaper's name from The Suffragette to Britannia. Emmeline's patriotic view of the war was reflected in the paper's new slogan: "For King, For Country, for Freedom'. The newspaper attacked politicians and military leaders for not doing enough to win the war. In one article, Christabel Pankhurst accused Sir William Robertson, Chief of Imperial General Staff, of being "the tool and accomplice of the traitors, Grey, Asquith and Cecil". Christabel demanded the "internment of all people of enemy race, men and women, young and old, found on these shores, and for a more complete and ruthless enforcement of the blockade of enemy and neutral." (79)

Anti-war activists such as Ramsay MacDonald were attacked as being "more German than the Germans". Another article on the Union of Democratic Control carried the headline: "Norman Angell: Is He Working for Germany?" Mary Macarthur and Margaret Bondfield were described as "Bolshevik women trade union leaders" and Arthur Henderson, who was in favour of a negotiated peace with Germany, was accused of being in the pay of the Central Powers. Her daughter, Sylvia Pankhurst, who was now a member of the Labour Party, accused her mother of abandoning the pacifist views of Richard Pankhurst. (80)

Adela Pankhurst also disagreed with her mother and in Australia she joined the campaign against the First World War. Adela believed that her actions were true to her father's belief in international socialism. She wrote to Sylvia that like her she was "carrying out her father's work". Emmeline Pankhurst completely rejected this approach and told Sylvia that she was "ashamed to know where you and Adela stand." (81) Sylvia commented: "Families which remain on unruffled terms, though their members are in opposing political parties, take their politics less keenly to heart than we Pankhursts." (82)

In 1917 Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst formed The Women's Party. Its twelve-point programme included: (1) A fight to the finish with Germany. (2) More vigorous war measures to include drastic food rationing, more communal kitchens to reduce waste, and the closing down of nonessential industries to release labour for work on the land and in the factories. (3) A clean sweep of all officials of enemy blood or connections from Government departments. Stringent peace terms to include the dismemberment of the Hapsburg Empire." (83)

The Women's Party also supported: "equal pay for equal work, equal marriage and divorce laws, the same rights over children for both parents, equality of rights and opportunities in public service, and a system of maternity benefits." Christabel and Emmeline had now completely abandoned their earlier socialist beliefs and advocated policies such as the abolition of the trade unions. In December 1918, Christabel was defeated in the general election at Smethwick. (84)

After the First World War Emmeline spent several years in the USA and Canada lecturing for the National Council for Combating Venereal Disease, as a campaigner in a moral crusade against promiscuity. She was accompanied by her old friend, Catherine Pine. "The work suited her - it took her back on the road, on to the series of platforms with which her life had become synonymous." (85)

When Emmeline returned to Britain in 1925 she joined the Conservative Party and was adopted as one of their candidates in the East End of London. Henry Snell commented "she found her appropriate spiritual home, and ended her days in the Tory Party, which used her to oppose Labour candidates and others whose help she had accepted, and on whose shoulders she had climbed to fame". (86) Sylvia Pankhurst, who still held her strong socialist views, was appalled by this decision. Emmeline's was also angry with Sylvia for having an illegitimate baby and refused to see her daughter or grandson. (87)

Adela Pankhurst, who had married Tom Walsh during the First World War, had five children - Richard named after her father, Sylvia after her sister, Christian, Ursula and Faith, who died soon after she was born. Emmeline never saw any of Adela's children. However, Adela, like her mother, had moved sharply to the right in the 1920s and she did write to her expressing regret for the long rift between them. (88)

Emmeline, Christabel Pankhurst and Mabel Tuke decided to run a tea-shop on the French Riviera in 1925. According to Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999): "In 1925 Mabel Tuke took part with Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, in the ill-fated scheme to run a tea-shop at Jules-les-Pins on the French Riviera. Mrs Tuke provided most of the capital and did the baking." The venture was unsuccessful and they returned to England in the spring of 1926. (89)

Emmeline Pankhurst died in a nursing home in Hampstead on 14th June, 1928, a month short of her seventieth birthday.

It was a custom of my father and mother to make the round of our bedrooms every night before going themselves to bed. When they entered my room that night I was still awake, but for some reason I chose to pretend I was asleep. My father bent over me, shielding the candle flame with his big hand. I cannot know exactly what I thought was in his mind as he gazed down at me, but I heard him say, somewhat sadly, "What a pity she wasn't born a lad."

My first hot impulse was to sit up in bed and protest that I didn't want to be a boy, but I lay still and heard my parents' footsteps pass on toward the next child's bed. I thought about my father's remark for many days afterward… It was made quite clear that men considered themselves superior to women, and that women accepted this situation. I found this view of things difficult to reconcile with the fact that both my father and my mother were advocates of women having the vote.

The education of boys was considered a much more serious matter than the education of girls. My parents… discussed the question of my brothers' education as a matter of real importance. My education and that of my sister were scarcely discussed at all. Of course we went to a carefully selected girls' school, but beyond the facts that the headmistress was a good woman and that all the pupils were girls of my own class, nobody seemed concerned. A girl's education at that time seemed to have for its prime object the art of 'making a home attractive'.

When I was fifteen I was sent to school in Paris. The school was under the direction of Marchef Girard a woman who believed that girls' education should be quite as thorough as the education of boys. When I was nineteen I finally returned from school in Paris and took my place in my father's home as a finished young lady.

She (Emmeline Pankhurst) returned to Manchester having learnt to wear her hair and her clothes like a Parisian, a graceful, elegant young lady, much more mature in appearance than girls of her age today, with a slender, svelte figure, raven black hair, an olive skin with a slight flush of red in the cheeks, delicately pencilled black eyebrows, beautiful expressive eyes of an unusually deep violet blue, above all a magnificent carriage and a voice of remarkable melody... She was romantic, believed in constancy, held flirtation degrading, would only give herself to an important man.

I came to know Dr. Richard Pankhurst, a lawyer… who was a supporter of woman's suffrage… Dr. Pankhurst acted as counsel for the Manchester women who tried in 1868 to be placed on the register as voters. He also drafted the bill giving married women absolute control over their property and earnings, a bill, which became law in 1882.

I think we cannot be too grateful to the group of men and women, who, like Dr. Pankhurst, lent the weight of their honoured names to the suffrage movement in the trials of its struggling youth. These men did not wait until the movement became popular, nor did they hesitate until it was plain that women were roused to the point of revolt. They worked all their lives with those who were organising, educating and preparing for the revolt which was one day to come. Unquestionably those pioneer men suffered in popularity for their feminist views.

About a year after my marriage my daughter Christabel was born, and in another eighteen months my second daughter Sylvia came. Two other children followed and for some years I was rather deeply immersed in my domestic affairs. I was never so absorbed with home and children, however, that I lost interest in community affairs. Pankhurst did not desire that I should turn myself into a household machine.

The leaders of the Liberal Party advised women to prove their fitness for the Parliamentary franchise by serving in municipal offices, especially the unsalaried offices. A large number of women had availed themselves of this advice, and were serving on Boards of Guardians, on school boards, and in other capacities. My children now being old enough for me to leave them with competent nurses, I was free to join these ranks. A year after my return to Manchester in 1894 I became a candidate for the Board of Poor Law Guardians. I was elected, heading the poll by a very large majority.

When I came into office I found that the law was being very harshly administered. They were guardians, not of the poor but of the rates… For instance, the inmates were being very poorly fed.

I found the old folks in the workhouse sitting on backless forms, or benches. After I took office I gave the old people comfortable Windsor chairs to sit in, and in a number of ways we managed to make their existence more endurable.

The first time I went into the place I was horrified to see little girls seven and eight years on their knees scrubbing the cold stones of the long corridors. The fact that bronchitis was epidemic among them most of the time had not suggested to the guardians any change in the fashion of their clothes.

I also found pregnant women in the workhouse, scrubbing floors, doing the hardest kind of work, almost until their babies came into the world. What became of those girls, and what became of their hapless infants?

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 emphasize its democracy, and partly to define its 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.

Emmeline Pankhurst was at once recognised by me as a force, vital and resourceful. She had beauty and graciousness, moving and speaking with dignity, but with no uncertainty of mind and movement. Later I was to see her captivating the mob, turning commonplace men and women into heroes, enslaving the young rebel women by the exploitation of emotion.

To work alongside of her day by day was to run the risk of losing yourself. She was a most astute statesman, a skilled politician, a self-dedicated reshaper of the world - and a dictator without mercy.

The crowd came - packing the hall to overflowing. That meeting was a revelation of the power of a great speaker.

My chief suggestion was that of intervention in elections. Claiming the right to vote, we would use every sort of endeavour to exercise that right in any form we could devise: an individual woman slipping into the polling-booth and dropping a voting paper into the sacred box; a half-dozen women rushing the door to cover a real or simulated voting attack… In all such action the women voting were to be some of those actually entitled to vote by existing law and debarred only by sex.

A hot-blooded Irish member promulgated the idea of a sex-relations boycott to pledge the young and desirable members on 'no engagements, no marriage, no babies' lines. But we thought this crazy and were fully behind Mrs. Pankhurst when she indicated that if it were unsuccessful, as it would be, it would only bring ridicule upon us, and if, by an unlikely miracle, it succeeded in part, it would create not sex-equality but sex-war.

I talked to Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Sylvia. Eventually I decided to remain a constitutional.

The Women's Social and Political Union had been in existence two years before any opportunity was presented to work on a national scale. The autumn of 1905 brought a political situation, which seemed to us to promise bright hopes for women's enfranchisement. The life of the old Parliament was coming to an end, and the country was on the eve of a general election in which the liberals hoped to be returned to power… The only object worth trying for was pledges from responsible leaders that the new Government would make women's suffrage a part of the official programme.

Eighty-one women were still in prison, some for terms of six months… Mother and Mr. and Mrs. Pethick Lawrence went on hunger-strike. The Government retaliated by forcible feeding. This was actually carried out in the case of Mr. Pethick-Lawrence. The doctors and wardresses came to Mother's cell armed with forcible-feeding apparatus. Forewarned by the cries of Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence… Mother received them with all her majestic indignation. They fell back and left her. Neither then nor at any time in her log and dreadful conflict with the government was she forcibly fed.

The hunger-strike I have described as a dreadful ordeal, but it is a mild experience compared with the thirst-strike, which is from beginning to end simple and unmitigated torture. Hunger-striking reduces a prisoner's weight very quickly, but thirst-striking reduces weight so alarmingly fast that prison doctors were at first thrown into absolute panic of fright. Every natural function is, of course, suspended, and the poisons which are unable to pass out of the body are retained and absorbed. The body becomes cold and shivery, there is constant headache and nausea, and sometimes there is fever. The mouth and tongue become coated and swollen, the throat thickens, and the voice sinks to a thready whisper.

When, at the end of the third day of my first thirst-strike, I was sent home, I was in a condition of jaundice from which I have never completely recovered. So badly was I affected that the prison authorities made no attempt to arrest me for nearly a month after my release.

In the summer of 1910 Emmeline was introduced to Ethel Smyth, an endearingly eccentric bisexual composer who cheerfully confessed to having little or no political background and to caring even less about votes for women - until she met and fell passionately in love with the founder of the WSPU. At first glance Ethel Smyth made a curious companion for a political leader who, despite the violence which attached itself to her movement, remained resolutely feminine. While Emmeline usually had some lace about her person Ethel always dressed in tweeds, deerstalker and tie. Emmeline tended to attack every venture with passion while her new friend regarded the world with a wry, amused cynicism. Ethel, unlike Emmeline, had few sexual or personal inhibitions. But the two women, who at fifty-two were exactly the same age, immediately formed so close an attachment that Ethel decided to give two years of her life to the cause. After that, she said, she would go back to her music. She was as good as her word, though the friendship endured even after she had left the political fray. Ethel's insights into the mind of her friend are incisive and enlightening, untainted by the family tensions which strained the memoirs of the younger generation of Pankhursts.

A graceful woman (Emmeline Pankhurst) rather under middle height, one would have said a delicate-looking woman, but the well-knit figure, the quick deft movement, the clear complexion, the soft bright eyes that on occasion could emit lambent flame, betokened excellent health....

(1) A fight to the finish with Germany.

(2) More vigorous war measures to include drastic food rationing, more communal kitchens to reduce waste, and the closing down of nonessential industries to release labour for work on the land and in the factories.

(3) A clean sweep of all officials of enemy blood or connections from Government departments. Stringent peace terms to include the dismemberment of the Hapsburg Empire.

(8) Irish Home Rule to be denied.

(9) On specificially women's questions, there must be equal pay for equal work, equal marriage and divorce laws, the same rights over children for both parents, equality of rights and opportunities in public service, and a system of maternity benefits.

Mrs. Pankhurst was an autocrat masquerading as a democrat. Mussolini might with profit have learned his business at her feet. She later found her appropriate spiritual home, and ended her days in the Tory Party, which used her to oppose Labour candidates and others whose help she had accepted, and on whose shoulders she had climbed to fame.

Child Labour Simulation (Teacher Notes)

1832 Reform Act and the House of Lords (Answer Commentary)

The Chartists (Answer Commentary)

Women and the Chartist Movement (Answer Commentary)

Benjamin Disraeli and the 1867 Reform Act (Answer Commentary)

William Gladstone and the 1884 Reform Act (Answer Commentary)

Richard Arkwright and the Factory System (Answer Commentary)

Robert Owen and New Lanark (Answer Commentary)

James Watt and Steam Power (Answer Commentary)

Road Transport and the Industrial Revolution (Answer Commentary)

Canal Mania (Answer Commentary)

Early Development of the Railways (Answer Commentary)

The Domestic System (Answer Commentary)

The Luddites: 1775-1825 (Answer Commentary)

The Plight of the Handloom Weavers (Answer Commentary)

Health Problems in Industrial Towns (Answer Commentary)

Public Health Reform in the 19th century (Answer Commentary)

(1) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) page 53

(2) June Purvis, Emmeline Pankhurst : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(3) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914) pages 7-8

(4) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 10

(5) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914) page 12

(6) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) page 56

(7) Ingleby Kernaghan, Richard Pankhurst : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(8) The Spectator (20th September, 1883)

(9) June Purvis, Emmeline Pankhurst : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(10) Annie Besant, Annie Besant: An Autobiography (1908) page 247

(11) Louise Raw, Striking a Light: The Bryant and May Matchwomen and their Place in Labor History (2009) page 59

(12) Annie Besant, The Link (23rd June, 1888)

(13) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914) page 19

(14) William Stead, Pall Mall Gazette (July, 1888)

(15) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) page 70

(16) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 63

(17) Jill Liddington, Rebel Girls: Their Fight for the Vote (2006) page 19

(18) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914) pages 24-26

(19) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 65-66

(20) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914) pages 27-28

(21) Paul Adelman, The Rise of the Labour Party: 1880-1945 (1972) pages 20-24

(22) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) pages 135-136

(23) Kenneth O. Morgan, Labour People: Leaders and Lieutenants (1987) page 25

(24) June Purvis, Emmeline Pankhurst : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(25) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) page 148

(26) Ingleby Kernaghan, Richard Pankhurst : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(27) Herbert Tracey, The Labour Party: Its History, Growth, Policy and Leaders - Volume I (1924) pages 124-125

(28) Ray Strachey, The Cause: A History of the Women's Movement in Great Britain (1928) page 289

(29) John Bruce Glasier, diary entry (18th October, 1902)

(30) Henry Snell, Men Movements and Myself (1936) page 184

(31) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914) page 36

(32) Dora Montefiore, From a Victorian to a Modern (1927) page 42

(33) Ada Nield Chew, The Clarion (16th December 1904)

(34) Teresa Billington Greig, The Non-Violent Militant (1987) page 91

(35) Margaret Haig Thomas, This Was My World (1933) page 120

(36) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) page 189

(37) Roger Fulford, Votes for Women (1956) page 127

(38) The Manchester Guardian (16th October 1905)

(39) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914) pages 45-46

(40) Paul Foot, The Vote (2005) pages 175-176

(41) Roy Hattersley, David Lloyd George (2010) page 236

(42) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914) page 69

(43) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 154

(44) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) page 245

(45) Fran Abrams, Freedom's Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes (2003) page 28

(46) Marion Wallace-Dunlop, statement (5th July, 1909)

(47) Joseph Lennon, Times Literary Supplement (22nd July, 2009)

(48) Roger Fulford, Votes for Women (1956) page 206

(49) Mary Leigh, statement published by the Women's Social and Political Union (October, 1909)

(50) Fran Abrams, Freedom's Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes (2003) pages 33-34

(51) Henry Brailsford, letter to Millicent Garrett Fawcett (18th January, 1910)

(52) Joyce Marlow, Votes for Women (2001) page 121

(53) Millicent Garrett Fawcett, The Women's Suffrage Movement (1912) page 88

(54) Paul Adelman, The Rise of the Labour Party: 1880-1945 (1972) page 42

(54a) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) page 343

(54b) Mary Frances Earl, statement (15th December, 1910)

(54c) Paul Foot, The Vote (2005) page 211

(54d) Joyce Marlow, Votes for Women (2001) page 129

(55) Robert Lloyd George, David and Winston: How a Friendship Changed History (2006) pages 70-71

(56) Lucy Masterman, C. F. G. Masterman (1939) page 211

(57) Paul Foot, The Vote (2005) page 211

(58) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 431

(59) Christabel Pankhurst, Votes for Women (9th October, 1911)

(60) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914) page 166

(61) Exchange of letters between Millicent Garrett Fawcett and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (December, 1911)

(62) Paul Foot, The Vote (2005) page 212

(63) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 196

(64) Margery Corbett, Memoirs (1997) page 67

(65) Fran Abrams, Freedom's Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes (2003) page 34

(66) David J. Mitchell, Queen Christabel (1977) page 180

(67) Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, My Part in a Changing World (1938) page 281

(68) Mary Richardson, Laugh a Defiance (1953) page 180

(69) Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000) page 514

(70) June Purvis, Emmeline Pankhurst : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(71) Ray Strachey, The Cause: A History of the Women's Movement in Great Britain (1928) page 330

(72) The Times (4th April, 1913)

(73) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914) pages 276-280

(74) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) pages 467-468

(75) Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000) page 377

(76) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 300

(77) The Star (4th September, 1914)

(78) Christabel Pankhurst, Unshackled (1959) page 288

(79) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) pages 594

(80) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 303

(81) Sylvia Pankhurst, The Life of Emmeline Pankhurst (1935) page 153

(82) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) pages 595

(83) June Purvis, Emmeline Pankhurst : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(84) David J. Mitchell, Queen Christabel (1977) page 275

(85) Fran Abrams, Freedom's Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes (2003) page 37

(86) Henry Snell, Men Movements and Myself (1936) page 184

(87) Patricia W. Romero, E. Sylvia Pankhurst: Portrait of a Radical (1987) page 168

(88) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 370

(89) Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000) page 690

November 13: Emmeline Pankhurst Delivers One of the 20th Century’s Greatest Speeches – “Freedom or Death”

Today in 1913, British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst delivered her famous “Freedom or Death” speech to a crowd of supporters at the Parsons Theater in Hartford, Connecticut. The famous activist, well known to Americans for the aggressive tactics she employed at suffragist rallies in England, was invited to speak by architect Theodate Pope of Farmington, and introduced by Hartford socialite and feminist Katharine Houghton Hepburn.

A pin sporting suffragist colors and a small portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst, circa 1909.

Taking the stage in front of a green, white, and purple banner that read “Resistance to Tyranny is Obedience to God,” Pankhurst spoke for over 90 minutes, delivering a powerful and eloquent justification of using militant tactics to agitate for women’s rights. “Tonight I am not here to advocate woman suffrage,” she declared “I am here as a soldier who has temporarily left the field of battle in order to explain what civil war is like when civil war is waged by women.” Giving a detailed history of the trials and tribulations of the women’s movement in England, Pankhurst also made multiple references to the political ideals of the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, repeatedly stressing the intolerable status quo of an entire country of women being governed without their consent: “We have been proving in our own person that government does not rest upon force it rests upon consent… all of the strange happenings that you have read about over [in England] have been manifestations of a refusal to consent on the part of the women.”

“Women are very slow to rouse, but once they are aroused, once they are determined, nothing on earth and nothing in heaven will make women give way it is impossible.”
– Emmeline Pankhurst, Nov. 13, 1913

Pankhurst used militaristic language throughout her speech, referring to anti-suffragists as “the enemy” and the struggle for women’s voting rights as a “civil war.” Referencing the many cases of suffragists going on hunger strikes, she dramatically declared: “We will put the enemy in the position where they will have to choose between giving us freedom or giving us death.”

The following day, Pankhurst left Hartford by train amid a crowd of well-wishers, taking with her $1,400 in donations (equivalent to over $35,000 in today’s dollars) to help her continue her “trouble-making” in England. Local newspaper coverage of Pankhurst’s speech was lukewarm at best the Hartford Courant described the speaker as a “notorious militant,” the venue as mostly empty, and concluded “Mrs. Pankhurst argued the suffrage cause of woman… but not with great result.” History would prove that final sentiment wrong, as Pankhurst’s “Freedom or Death” speech is now widely considered one of the greatest political speeches of the 20th century.

A speech for the ages that both defined, defended, and energized the radical women’s movement of the early 20th century, delivered today in Connecticut history.

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst
Leader of the Militant wing of the English Suffrage Movement
1858 – 1928 A.D.

Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the militant wing of the English suffrage movement. She was born in Manchester of parents who were advocates of woman suffrage and champions of freedom for the slaves during the American Civil War.

In 1879 she married Dr. R. P. Pankhurst who associated with her social reforms until his death in 1898.

After being connected with various societies, Mrs. Pankhurst in 1903 founded the Woman’s Social and Political Union at a meeting held at her Manchester home and this organization to attain political equality of women with men soon had its headquarters in London whither Mrs. Pankhurst moved. When the Union became potent and formidable, receiving much financial and personal support, persuaded that more aggressive methods were necessary, the tactics of “peaceful militancy” were pursued for some years, but although pledges from a majority of members of parliament to support equal suffrage had been secured, the cabinet was hostile.

In 1913 it was decided by Mrs. Pankhurst and her followers to inaugurate a “women’s revolution,” and the incitements to violence had their effect. Country houses, club houses, railway stations, lumber yards, and churches were fired race courses and golf links damaged and bombs exploded.

Thousands of women were put in jail, and Mrs. Pankhurst, held responsible for the acts of her associates, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. She restorted [sic] to the “hunger strike,” proclaiming that she would die if necessary, and after a few days was released, only to be imprisoned again and again. Soon after she sailed for an American lecture tour.

On her arrival in New York, she was detained for two days by the immigration authorities as an “undesirable alien,” but was released by orders from Washington and received a triumphant welcome.

After her return to England she was frequently imprisoned in the summer of 1914 Mrs. Pankhurst and her associates announced a cessation of militant tactics until the European War should end, and in 1917 suffrage in England was granted to all women of thirty years and over. Mrs. Pankhurst’s daughters, Christabel (1880 – 1958 A.D.), and Sylvia (1882 – 1960 A.D.), are both women of exceptional capacity and energy, have taken part in their mother’s suffrage activity from childhood on, and have shared her prison and other experiences.

Reference: Famous Women An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.

The WSPU Takes Shape

Coping with straitened circumstances and grief consumed much of Pankhurst’s attention for the next several years. However, she retained a passion for women’s rights, and in 1903 she decided to create a new women-only group focused solely on voting rights, the Women&aposs Social and Political Union. The WSPU’s slogan was �s Not Words.”

In 1905, Pankhurst’s daughter Christabel and fellow WSPU member Annie Kenney went to a meeting to demand if the Liberal party would support women’s suffrage. After a confrontation with the police, both women were arrested. The attention and interest that followed this arrest encouraged Pankhurst to have the WSPU follow a more combative path than other suffrage groups.

At first the WSPU’s “militancy” consisted of buttonholing politicians and holding rallies. Still, following these tactics led to members of Pankhurst’s group being arrested and imprisoned (Pankhurst herself was first sent behind bars in 1908). The Daily Mail soon dubbed Pankhurst’s group “suffragettes,” as opposed to the “suffragists,” who also wanted women to be able to vote in the United Kingdom, but who followed less confrontational channels.

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst is considered one of the leaders of the suffragette movement in Great Britain. Emmeline Pankhurst was born in 1858 and died in 1928.

Emmeline Pankhurst was born in Manchester, nee Goulden, and married Richard Pankhurst. He was a firm believer in the social and political emancipation of women and his ideas did a lot to bolster the beliefs of Emmeline.

Richard Pankhurst died in 1898 but he left his mark on Emmeline. In 1889, both Emmeline Pankhurst and her husband had founded the Women’s Franchise League. This movement had a specific agenda but was seen to be hopelessly out of touch with society. By 1903, Emmeline’s daughter, Christabel, had persuaded her mother to form a far more militant organisation – the Women’s Social and Political Union.

During the famous militant acts of the WSPU, Emmeline Pankhurst took on a decisive role that saw her being arrested on a number of occasions – six times between 1908 and 1912. As the Suffragette movement became more militant, so society took a more hard line view on their activities. The 1913 Derby and the act of Emily Wilding Davison shocked and outraged society. However, during World War One, Emmeline Pankhurst encouraged all women to do what they could for the war effort. There is a definite link between the work women did in World War One and their enfranchisement in 1918 – though historians have questioned just how important that link was.

In 1919, Emmeline Pankhurst emigrated to Canada, having left the Independent Labour Party. She stayed in Canada until 1926. Ironically, just before her death in 1928, she was adopted by the Conservative Party to stand for the seat in Whitechapel.

For many people, Emmeline Pankhurst symbolises the struggle women made at the start of the C20th – a struggle that garnered its fruit in 1918.

Review of Emmeline Pankhurst: A Biography, by June Purvis

June Purvis&rsquo biography of Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), the first full-length study of the English suffragette leader for nearly seventy years, makes a welcome addition to suffrage history and feminist biography alike. Topping recent polls in the Observer and Daily Mirror as the &ldquowoman of the twentieth century&rdquo (p.1), Emmeline Pankhurst&rsquos hold upon the popular imagination as a champion of women remains firm.

Pankhurst and her three daughters, Christabel, Sylvia and Adela, courted both notoriety and the adulation of Edwardian society in their direction of the militant suffragette campaigns of 1905-1914. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst formed the Women&rsquos Social and Political Union (WSPU) in Manchester in 1903, in response to the perceived lethargy of the women&rsquos movement on the suffrage question. Although only one of a whole range of societies promoting women&rsquos enfranchisement, the WSPU was the first suffrage organisation to employ militant tactics to draw attention to &lsquothe Cause'(including window-breaking, stone-throwing, the disruption of public meetings and parliamentary session time, arson and bomb attacks, and hunger strikes when imprisoned). Casting themselves as revolutionaries, the Pankhurst women exploited their genius for publicity and spectacle, effectively dramatising feminist demands, where larger, more established women&rsquos organisations had failed to make headway.

Emmeline Pankhurst possessed tremendous skill as an orator and her unrivalled ability to mobilise her &lsquotroops&rsquo attracted new devotees to the WSPU. A bold, charismatic leader with a queenly, dignified bearing, she was by turns warm and aloof in her personal friendships, dismissing old allies from her court with little warning. She also made no secret of her devotion to her eldest and favourite child, &lsquoclever&rsquo Christabel, sparking rivalry, jealousy and bitterness amongst her daughters. Much to the astonishment of many of their followers, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst called a halt to militant activities on the outbreak of World War One, disbanding the WSPU to become dedicated patriots in support of the British war effort. Emmeline Pankhurst died in 1928 while standing as a Conservative parliamentary candidate, estranged from daughters Sylvia and Adela and an array of erstwhile friends.

The time would seem ripe for a new account of the Pankhurst story and, as a leading historian of the suffrage movement, Purvis is certainly well placed to give her revisionist version. Detailed, thoroughly researched and meticulously documented, this is an overwhelmingly sympathetic account of Emmeline Pankhurst, for which Purvis makes no apology. Her agenda is explicit from the outset: to rehabilitate her subject&rsquos reputation as a &lsquofailed leader,&rdquobad mother&rsquo and traitor to her loyal allies and socialist values. Her main purpose is to challenge the misrepresentation of Pankhurst established by the writings of daughter Sylvia. As Purvis rightly maintains, suffrage historiography has been heavily influenced by Sylvia Pankhurst&rsquos two biased memoirs, The Suffragette Movement: An Intimate Account of Persons and Ideals (1931) and The Life of Emmeline Pankhurst: The Suffragette Struggle for Women&rsquos Citizenship (1935). Summarising the task at hand, Purvis writes that:

it is time to reclaim Emmeline Pankhurst from the denigration of Sylvia and of historians who have marginalised her as a middle class opportunist, ruthless, patriotic and right wing, a woman driven by her eldest daughter, Christabel, the autocratic leader of a militant movement that was bourgeois, reactionary and narrow in its aims&hellipIt is time to represent Emmeline as she was seen in her time, a &lsquoChampion of Womanhood&rsquo, to give to her that &lsquohonoured niche&rsquo in history (p.360).

Purvis contests Emmeline Pankhurst&rsquos popular image as a &lsquoleisured&rsquo woman of the upper-middle class who &ldquospent endless hours in unpaid political work on public platforms and committees&rdquo (p.317): she was in fact paid for her many years as a lecturer for the WSPU, Women&rsquos Party, and the Social Hygiene Committee. Instead, Purvis portrays Pankhurst as a woman plagued by financial worries since the early death of her husband, Richard. This continual struggle to scrape together enough money to support herself and both her &lsquofamilies&rsquo, is underscored repeatedly. Purvis is also keen to recover Emmeline Pankhurst&rsquos socialist beginnings, contending that throughout her chequered political career, she never &ldquolos[t] her links with the socialist movement&rdquo (p.111) and that her sympathies were firmly with the working class. Yet, in demanding the vote on the same terms as men, Pankhurst&rsquos campaign for a limited franchise excluded working class women by entailing a property qualification.

Pankhurst&rsquos postwar politics &ndash comprising extreme patriotism, pro-imperialism, anti-communism, anti-Bolshevism, and Toryism &ndash has proved very problematic for feminist historians. Purvis endeavours to combat Pankhurst&rsquos unfashionable status as a &lsquoconservative&rsquo and &lsquoreactionary&rsquo, by describing Pankhurst&rsquos swing to the right as a natural progression of both her &lsquopatriotic feminism&rsquo and her disillusionment with the Independent Labour Party and socialism. According to Purvis, Pankhurst increasingly found herself &ldquotorn between competing loyalties of gender and class. As the feminist leader of the women-only WSPU she put women first&rdquo (p.90). Purvis depicts Emmeline Pankhurst&rsquos &lsquowoman-centred&rsquo feminism as prescient in its &ldquostruggle against an oppressive male state&rdquo (p.251), and though this is partly true, her contention that Pankhurst&rsquos Toryism maintains continuity with her earlier political career is unconvincing.

While Purvis is mostly successful in her mission to &lsquorescue&rsquo Pankhurst, the author&rsquos keen identification with and admiration for her subject allows her to avoid detailed examination of some of the more unpleasant aspects of Pankhurst. Many of her haughty and high-handed actions, particularly the expulsion of the Pethick Lawrences from the WSPU and the sudden cessation of her close friendship with Ethel Smyth seem glossed over for the sake of expediency. Purvis emphasises Pankhurst&rsquos concern and love for her children throughout her commitment to women&rsquos suffrage. She does not, however, deny her blatant favouritism of Christabel, nor her ruthless treatment of her younger daughters. Moreover, her adoption of a &lsquosecond family&rsquo of four war orphans was obviously a responsibility she was ill-equipped to undertake due to her financial predicament and the constraints on her time that her various &rsquocauses&rsquo imposed. Purvis&rsquo simple explanation that, for Pankhurst, &ldquothe women&rsquos cause was above family relationships&rdquo (p.249), does not seem entirely satisfactory.

The real strength of Purvis&rsquo book lies in her exploration of the personal side of Emmeline Pankhurst. The least well-known aspects of Pankhurst&rsquos life, as a young wife, socialist, political hostess, and the coverage of Pankhurst&rsquos little known career as a Poor Law Guardian, the Registrar of Births and Deaths in Manchester, and a shopkeeper, are the most successful sections of the biography and make compelling reading. The details of her role as emissary to Russia and the years she spent as a lecturer for &lsquosocial hygiene&rsquo in Canada add new dimensions to Pankhurst&rsquos long and varied career.

Considering Purvis&rsquo radical feminist viewpoint, her discussion of lesbianism within the WSPU is strange to say the least. Masculinist historians&rsquo intimations have, indeed, been both misogynistic and puerile, particularly Martin Pugh&rsquos conjecture upon the supposed &lsquolesbian love trysts&rsquo of several prominent suffragettes. However, such curiosity about the sexual orientations of well-known feminists is hardly new, and this does not explain why Purvis is so upset and indignant about these speculations: is it because Pugh and others have got the story wrong, or because they are discussing the possibility of homosexuality within the suffragette ranks?

In her analysis of the years of WSPU militancy, Emmeline Pankhurst emerges as a defiant and heroic leader. We are reminded that the WSPU brought a much-needed boost of energy to the foundering constitutional suffrage campaign. Purvis claims that women&rsquos partial enfranchisement in 1918 would not have been achieved without Pankhurst&rsquos leadership of the WSPU and the pressure that militancy placed on the British government: &ldquoWhat is frequently overlooked,&rdquo she asserts, &ldquois that Emmeline and her militants changed the way in which women wereperceived by people generally, including politicians&rdquo (p.308), &ldquomilitant tactics shook the complacency of the British government, making it most unlikely&hellipthat without it women&rsquos suffrage would have been granted&rdquo (p.361).

Historical interest in the Pankhurst family is little diminished, and Purvis&rsquo book will surely stimulate discussion and debate among feminists and suffrage historians. This is an accomplished biography that offers some fascinating insights, and the author handles her subject and source material with skilled assurance. This new addition to suffrage literature may well prove to be the definitive account of the Emmeline Pankhurst&rsquos life for many years to come.

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst was a political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement. In 1903, frustrated by the lack of progress in women’s right, Pankhurst and others founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) to fight for social reform.

Born in in July 1858 in Manchester, Emmeline Pankhurst (nee Goulden) was introduced to the women’s suffrage movement at the age of eight. Against the wishes of her parents who wanted her to prepare for a life as a mother and wife, she enrolled at the École Normale de Neuilly in Paris.

At the age of 21 Emmeline married RIchard Pankhurst, a barrister and supporter of women’s right to vote. He encouraged her to activism outside of the home and in 1889 she founded the Women’s Franchise League.


The Women's Social and Political Union was an organisation set up by Emmeline Pankhurst. The Women's franchise league was seen to be an organisation that was not in touch with society so Emmeline later created the Women's Social and Political Union which was inspired by Christabel, her daughter.

The WSPU became known for its militant acts of protest, including organising hunger strikes and causing property damage. As a result, Emmeline was arrested half a dozen times between 1908 and 1912. Faced with such unruly and ‘unfeminine’ behaviour, many people treated the WSPU with distrust. As such, it never gained wide popularity.

The role of women in World War One gave weight to the arguments for political equality and contributed to their enfranchisement in 1918 hence Emmeline wanted women to give their all when it came to the war effort.

Emmeline worked for both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, the former before leaving for Canada(1919) and the latter right before her death in 1928. She stood for the seat in Whitechapel for the Conservative Party.

What Emmeline Pankhurst will be remembered for most by many people is rather interesting, many regard her as a person who set the foundation for equal rights of women and the struggle they went through in order to obtain it at the begining of the 20th century.

Family and activism

In 1879 Emmeline married a barrister and political activist, Richard Pankhurst, and soon bore him five children. Her husband agreed that Emmeline should not be a ‘household machine’, so hired a butler to help around the home.

Following her husband’s death in 1888, Emmeline established the Women’s Franchise League. The WFL aimed to help women achieve the vote, as well as equal treatment in divorce and inheritance.

It was disbanded owing to internal disagreements, but the League was an important step in establishing Pankhurst as a leader of the women’s suffrage movement. It proved to be the beginning of her radical political activities.

Emmeline Pankhurst - History

The Suffragette Movement and her Connection to Epsom

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst was a British political activist and leader of the British suffrage movement which helped women win the right to vote in Great Britain.

She was born in 1858, the eldest daughter of ten children to Robert and Sophia Goulden and raised in Moss Side Manchester. Both parents had radical political beliefs and her mother was a passionate believer in the women’s suffrage movement. It is thought that Emmeline attended her first suffrage meeting at the age of eight.

In 1873 Emmeline was sent to Ecole Normale Superieure, a finishing school in Paris, run by Marchef Gurard, a woman who believed that girls should be educated just as thoroughly as boys. So, as well as the usual subjects taught to young ladies to prepare them for the society of the day, they were also taught chemistry and other sciences and bookkeeping. She returned home an elegant and sophisticated young woman.

In 1878 she met and married Richard Pankhurst, a lawyer 24 years her senior and a strong supporter of women’s right to vote. They had five children, Christabel 1880-1958, Sylvia 1882-1960, Francis Henry 1884-1888, Adela 1885-1961 and Henry Francis 1889-1910 [named in honour of his deceased brother].

Richard Pankhurst

The family moved to London in 1886 and their home in Russell Square became a meeting place for socialists and suffragists. In 1893 they returned to Manchester and formed a branch of the new Independent Labour Party [ILP].

In 1894 Emmeline became a Poor Law Guardian. This involved regular visits to Chorlton Workhouse where she was deeply shocked by the misery and suffering of the inmates. She was particularly concerned about the way women and children were treated and it reinforced her belief that the women’s suffrage movement was the only way to improve the situation.

Richard died in 1898 but Emmeline continued the fight for women’s rights and by 1903 along with her three daughters and other colleagues she founded the Women’s Social and Political Union [WSPU] an organisation for women only and focused on direct action to win the vote. However, by 1905 the media had lost interest in the struggle for women’s rights and newspapers usually refused to publish articles or letters written by supporters of women’s suffrage. So, the WSPU decided to use a different approach to obtain their goal. Disruption of political meetings, stone throwing, window smashing, destruction of property and other militant acts led to the arrest and imprisonment of the women, where they eventually resorted to hunger and thirst strikes.

In 1910 a Parliamentary bill for women’s rights was being negotiated but when it became clear that the government was stalling and the bill would not be passed Mrs Pankhurst led a protest march of 300 women to Parliament Square. They were met with a violent and aggressive response from the police directed by the Home Secretary Winston Churchill.

A Suffragette being force fed

Again the women were arrested and imprisoned but this time in response to their hunger strikes the prison authorities were directed to force feed them. This involved the women being physically restrained while a rubber hose tube was forced up the nose or down the throat into the stomach and liquid poured through it. Holloway Prison was filled with the screams of women being subjected to this hideous practice. Many women including Mrs Pankhurst and her daughters suffered this treatment several times until the new Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna introduced a law known as the “Cat and Mouse Act” which meant that when the women were too ill or frail to put up with this treatment any longer they were released from prison until they had regained their health and then they were returned to prison to finish their sentences.

Cat and Mouse Act poster 1914

The WSPU continued with their militant actions around the country until an incident occurred at Walton-on-the-Hill on 19 February 1913 bringing Mrs Pankhurst to the attention of the Surrey Police.

At 6.10am on the 19 February, a bomb exploded at a house being built for Lloyd George, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, at Walton-on-the-Hill in the Dorking Police Division.

Postcard of David Lloyd George’s House, Walton on the Hill

Bomb Outrage in Surrey
Report in The Times 11 February 1913 – Click image to enlarge

The following information is taken from the Police reports of that time:-

19 February 1913.

Inspector Riley of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch and Major Cooper Keys, the Chief of the Explosives Branch of the Home Office, were notified by Superintendent Coleman, the local man, about the explosion. A motor car P8487 [LF4587] was traced passing through Banstead at 2.50 am and returned at about 5am. The car was heard to leave the vicinity of the house at about 4.30am and so the fuse must have taken about 2 hours to burn down.

An earlier arrest of Mrs Pankhurst

On 24 February Mrs Pankhurst was arrested in London for the bombing and later taken to Leatherhead Police Station where she was questioned and charged. Superintendent Coleman reported:

‘She is being detained in Inspector Tudgay’s sitting room and I have arranged with the Inspector to sleep her in one of his bedrooms tonight.’

The Director of Public Prosecutions had instructed that whilst in custody, Mrs Pankhurst should be treated with due consideration! Next day she was bailed from Epsom Magistrates’ Court, having been driven to the court with the Superintendent. This made her the first person in the Surrey Constabulary area to have been “conveyed to court in a motor car.”

7 March 1913 C.I.D New Scotland Yard.

Referring to the recent outrages by the Suffragettes in the Metropolitan District and at Walton-on-the-Hill, I beg to report that at 3.25pm on the 19th February last, a telephone message was received from Superintendent Coleman, Surrey Constabulary, Dorking, stating that at 6.10am that day an explosion had occurred at Sir George Riddell’s house at Walton-on-the-Hill and that a tin of unexploded black gunpowder had been found in the house.

The explosion is supposed to have been caused by a five pound tin of coarse grained gunpowder which had been placed in a bedroom on the first floor. The room in which the explosion took place was wrecked in the interior and the western wall was bulging about four inches. Inquiries have been made regarding the outrage and the movements of car LF4587 [P8487] on the 18th and 19th February and in consequence of Mrs. Pankhurst’s public uttering regarding this and other outrages, the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to take proceedings against her under the Malicious Damages Act 1861.

Police holding back the crowds at Epsom Magistrates’ Court during Mrs Pankhurst’s hearing

Not all the explosives detonated but it was reckoned that if they had, some of the workmen arriving on site would definitely have been killed. Lloyd George was out of the country at the time. Mrs Pankhurst was later sentenced to three years penal servitude.

Mrs Pankhurst leaving Epsom Magistrates’ Court, accompanied by James Murray, a former MP

In the weeks leading up to the bombing incident a number of women had, at different times, visited nearby Tadworth Village and Walton-on-the-Hill making enquiries as to the visits of prominent politicians to the nearby Walton Heath golf course and the houses used by these gentlemen when they came for weekends. Lloyd George and his colleagues from the ministry took such a liking to the Walton Heath course that they arranged to occupy houses in the neighbourhood and many attractive residences were built close to the Heath. One of these was selected by Lloyd George and built by Sir George Riddell.

This militant act was followed later in the year by the devastating action of fellow suffragette Emily Wilding Davison at the Epsom Derby meeting when she ran onto the course in front of the King’s horse, resulting in her death.

At the start of WW1 in 1914 the WSPU suspended their actions in support of the governments stand against Germany. Emmeline used her meetings to urge the men to volunteer for the front line and the women to keep the country going by doing the jobs left vacant. In the years following the Armistice in 1918, Mrs Pankhurst continued to rally support for women’s rights both at home and in North America but gradually her health began to fail, probably caused by the years of imprisonment and hunger strikes and also due to the fact that she had become estranged from her daughters Sylvia and Adela. In 1928 she moved into a nursing home in Hampstead where she died on June 14 aged 69, just a few weeks after women had been granted full voting rights. She was buried in Brompton Cemetery London.

Statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, London
Photo by Fin Fahey licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

To underline her importance to the women’s cause, a portrait of her was added to the National Portrait Gallery in 1929 and a statue erected in her honour in Victoria Tower Gardens in 1930.

The Legacy of Emmeline Pankhurst

Her legacy is that every female in Great Britain over the age of 18 has the right to vote in political elections and to be treated as equals with men in the eyes of the law. This should never be taken for granted and every woman should exercise her right to vote in a democratic society.

To read Mrs Pankhurst’s own account about and her arrest and trial, see this extract from her book Mrs. Pankhurst’s Own Story.

Watch the video: The Dollop #416 - Emmeline Pankhurst live