Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst

Gender: Female

Marital Status: Married

Born: 1858

Died: 1928

Place of birth: Manchester, Lancashire, England

Main Suffrage Society: WSPU

Society Role: Founder and leader

Arrest Record: Yes

Recorded Entries: 10


Other sources:
Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866?1928 (1999); Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914); June Purvis, Emmeline Pankhurst: A Biography (2002)

Database linked sources:

Further Information:

Family information: WSPU founder and mother of WSPU suffragette workers and leaders Christabel, Sylvia and Adela Pankhurst.

Additional Information: Emmeline joined the executive committee of the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage in 1880 and supported her husband Richard (a radical Liberal and later Independent Labour Party (ILP) candidate) in a number of elections, at which he was defeated. Together, they were involved with meetings and discussions that led to the formation of the Women's Franchise League (WFraL) in 1889, by which time the family had opened an 'art furniture' shop in London. Emmeline had also subscribed to the Central National Society for Women's Suffrage (CNSWS). Emmeline stood as an ILP candidate for election to the Manchester School Board but was relieved of this position when women's eligibility was removed under the Education Act of 1902. The need for the vote to protect women's already hard-fought rights became ever more pressing. Emmeline felt that the ILP as a whole was not championing women's rights and freedoms as earnestly as men's. Following a meeting of a small group of similarly disgruntled ILP women at Emmeline's home, the WSPU was formed in 1903 ? its motto 'Deeds not Words'. She had become a seasoned and inspirational speaker in the preceding years, and began WSPU campaigning among the northern working class mill and textile women she knew so well through her work with the ILP. She resigned from the latter in 1907. Emmeline was arrested in 1908 for heading a deputation to the House of Commons, and in the autumn was sentenced to three months for inciting a 'rush' on the House of Commons. In between, as with all of her many stints of imprisonment, there were meetings, speeches, processions or interviews for the suffrage press. She was chiefly arrested for leading deputations and demonstrations and inciting others to participate in militant activity. In the midst of all this, in 1910, her son Harry died, aged just 21 years old. Her sister Mary Clarke, also a suffragette, also died suddenly in 1910, shortly after her release from prison for breaking windows on 'Black Friday'. Emmeline took part in the illegal suffrage boycott of the government census survey in 1911 and, in 1912, was sentenced to two months for throwing a stone at Number 10 Downing Street. She was sentenced to another nine months in prison for inciting others 'to damage property' and went on hunger strike. She was not forcibly fed by the authorities like other suffragettes, likely because she was too 'high profile' and had many rich and influential friends. She consistently protested that suffragettes were not automatically accorded political prisoner rather than criminal prisoner status. When she and daughter Christabel (then in Paris) set the WSPU on a more violent course, from 1912, Emmeline was imprisoned several times because she took responsibility publicly for the actions of WSPU members, enabling the police to arrest and charge her. Emmeline, like others, then began a cycle of hunger strikes, releases and recaptures, under the government's 'Cat and Mouse Act', which inevitably affected her physical and emotional health. Her loyal followers, who loved and admired her dearly, retaliated with a series of arsons and damage to artwork, and riots surrounded every attempt by the police to recapture her. Eventually, in 1914, she took respite abroad. When the war broke out that year, she set about supporting the goverment and the Allies' war policy and carrying out philanthropic work. She and daughter Christabel renamed the WSPU the Women's Party, but it did not continue the fight for the vote. Emmeline published her autobiography, My Own Story, in 1914.

Show More