The Margaret Sanger Papers


Pankhurst, Emmeline Goulden (1858-1928)

British suffragist and political reformer. Married Richard Marsden Pankhurst (1879), three daughters, two sons; widowed 1898. Born in Manchester, Emmeline Pankhurst became active in political reform working for her husband, a radical reformer. An early women's rights activist, she supported married women's property reform and woman suffrage. During the 1880s, Pankhurst assisted Annie Besant in organizing the Match Girls' Strike. She also joined the Women's Liberal Federation. Returning to Manchester Pankhurst also served on the Manchester school board and as a Poor Law Guardian in 1894-95. She also joined the fledgling Independent Labour Party (ILP), eventually serving on the Executive Committee of the ILP Manchester Central Branch (1902) and the ILP National Administrative Council (1904). She continued to work to get women the vote through the North of England Society for Women's Suffrage, but was stymied in her efforts to foster suffrage reform within the Labour movement. In 1903 Pankhurst and her daughters, Sylvia and Christabel, formed a separate organization, the Women's Political and Social Union (WPSU) using militant tactics to attract attention to the cause. In 1907 the WPSU moved to London to pressure the national government and undertook a long campaign of demonstrations which became increasingly violent. The WPSU's tactics included attacks on the reigning Liberal Party, disrupting speeches and rioting. Pankhurst was arrested several times and imprisoned, going on hunger strikes and enduring forced feedings in an effort to gain support and attention for cause of women's suffrage. During World War I, Pankhurst demonstrated her patriotism by suspending the activities of the WPSU and working for conscription and pro-war propaganda. After the war, when women's suffrage was granted to British women over the age of 30, Pankhurst ceased her agitation. She travelled frequently, lecturing in the U.S., Russia, and Canada, where she lived from 1920-1925. In 1926 she returned to England to run for Parliament for the Conservative Party, but died before the election. Pankhurst wrote her autobiography, My Own Story, in 1914
References: Europa Biographical Dictionary of British Women, ed. Anne Crawford, (1983); David J. Mitchell, The Fighting Pankhursts: A Study in Tenacity (1967); Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst, The Life of Emmeline Pankhurst (1936)