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.