by Emmelia Maglinte

Emmeline Pankhurst

     Emmeline Pankhurst was born in Manchester, England, in 1858. She was the daughter of Robert Goulden and Sophia Crane. Her father was a successful businessman with radical political beliefs. Robert took part in the campaigns against slavery and the Corn Laws. Emmeline’s mother was a feminist and at an early age started taking her daughter to women’s suffrage meetings. With this background, it is not surprising that she would dedicate her life to obtaining equal rights for women, and become one of England’s leading suffragettes.
        Emmeline’s parents had conventional ideas about education and after a short spell at a school in Manchester, Emmeline was sent to a finishing school an Paris at the age of fifteen.
        When she returned to Manchester in 1878, she met the lawyer, Richard Pankhurst. Richard was a strong advocate of women’s suffrage. He had been responsible for drafting an amendment to the Municipal Franchise Act of 1869, that resulted in unmarried women householders being allowed to vote in local elections. He was also the main person responsible for the drafting of the Women’s Property Bill, that was passed by the Parliament in 1870.

Richard Pankhurst

        Richard and Emmeline were immediately attracted to each other, but he was forty-four and Emmeline was only twenty. Emmeline’s father, Robert Goulden gave permission for the marriage to take place. In the first six years of the marriage Emmeline had four children. Christabel in 1880, Sylvia in 1882, Frank in 1884, and Adela in 1885.

Christabel Pankhurst

        In 1885, Emmeline became a Poor Law Guardian. This involved regular visits to the local work houses and she was shocked by the suffering of the inmates. Richard and Emmeline were both active members of the Independent Labour Party. Richard made several attempts to be elected to the House of Commons, but his political career ended where he died of a perforated ulcer in 1898.
        Emmeline continued her involvement in politics, but she grew gradually disillusioned with the existing women’s political organizations and in 1903, she founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

Sylvia Pankhurst

        By 1905, the media had lost it interest in the struggle for women’s rights. Newspapers often refused to publish articles and letters written by supporters of Women’s Suffrage.
        In 1907, Emmeline moved to London to join her two daughters in the struggle for voting rights. For the next seven years she was imprisoned repeatedly. She was now in her fifties, and Emmeline’s actions inspired many other women to follow her example. In one eighteen month period, she endured ten hunger-strikes.

Emmeline Pankhurst

        In 1914, England declared war on Germany. The leadership of the WSPU began negotiating with the British government, and on the tenth of August, the government released all suffragettes from prison, and in return the WSPU agreed to help the war effort. Two days later the WSPU announced that it was suspending all political activity until the war was over.
        After World War I was over, Emmeline spent several years in the United States of America and Canada lecturing for the National Council for Combating Venereal Disease. When she returned to Britain in 1925, she joined the Conservative Party and continued her life’s work championing for the right of women to vote. Emmeline died three years later in 1928, a few weeks after British women were granted full voting rights. She was 70 years old.


"The Emancipation of Women" Spartacus internet Encyclopedia @ 5/31/00

Mitchell, David. The Fighting Pankhursts New York : The Macmillan Company, 1967

The World Book Encyclopedia. New York:: Groleir, 1992

Rowbotham, Sheila. A Century of Women . New York : The Penguin Group, 1997

Picture Credits:

Picture #1 - "Emmeline Pankhurst" from:

Picture # 2 - " Richard Pankhurst" From:

Picture # 3 - " Christabel Pankhurst" from:

Picture #4 - "Sylvis Pankhurst" From:

Picture #5 - "Emmeline Pankhurst" From: