My study blog

emiline Pankurst

Posted by lednum on September 23, 2006

Emmeline Goulden Pankhurst (1858 – 1928)

Old photograph showing Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst, c.1908 ©

‘Deeds not words’ was the motto of the Women’s Social and Political Union founded by Emmeline Pankhurst. It is a motto that could also serve well to sum up Pankhurst’s life, both as a woman and as a suffragette. She worked her entire life for the cause of women’s suffrage, and was certainly not afraid to back up her words with action.In 1879 she married Richard Pankhurst, who was a Manchester lawyer and a radical. He was the author of the first women’s suffrage bill in Britain, as well as the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882, which allowed women to keep earnings or property acquired before and after marriage.

In 1889 Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Franchise League, which fought to allow married women to vote in local elections. In October 1903, together with her daughter Christabel, she helped found the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) – an organisation that gained much notoriety with their militant actions.

From 1906 onwards, Pankhurst would lead the WSPU against the Liberal Party, whom she felt were the main obstacles standing in the way of women’s suffrage. From 1908 to 1909, she was arrested three times, once after calling on people to ‘rush the House of Commons’ for the suffrage cause.

WSPU members were frequently arrested over the next few years, sometimes in response to a spate of arson attacks orchestrated by Christabel Pankhurst. In 1912 Emmeline herself was arrested monthly, over a period of a year.

The series of incarcerations followed a regular pattern: Once in prison, Emmeline would go on a hunger strike, and she would eventually be released in order for her to regain her health. She would then be put back in jail, where she would again starve herself. This way of dealing with hunger strikers was named the Cat and Mouse Act.

This period of militancy was abruptly ended by the start of World War One, when Emmeline turned her skills to supporting the war effort. Post-war, she moved around, from the US to Bermuda to Canada.

Upon her return to Britain in 1926, she was hailed as a leader of the


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