Founder of the suffragette movement in Britain, Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 – 1928) is one of the great feminist history. He led the fight for the right to vote a historic debt since the French Revolution, between 1889 and 1914 start of the First World War.
Among his most famous phrases highlights: “I do not feel either as a soldier or as a convict and yet, I’m both,” fragment of speech ‘Freedom or death’, who gave the 13 November 1913 in Connecticut, USA States, when the movement was going through one of its most tense moments.
The motto of the British suffragettes was ‘Facts not words’ and his story is well told in the film ‘Suffragettes’ Sarah Gavron.
What were the precedents of the activist movement led by Pankhurst? Here we present the most important
Already in the beginning of the century, the movement in defense of women’s suffrage in England seemed to have no reverse. But the British government refused to amend laws, believed that a social and political chaos would cause leaving to participate in public life to women. Many of the suffragettes belonging to the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) decided then to give an ultimatum to society, intensifying protests.
It was the hardest time of the conflict and one of its most dramatic moments was the death of Emily Davison, a martyr of the movement, crushed by the horse of King George V in the Derby, a famous traditional horse race in June 1913.
There are different versions of this drama, which at the time was blamed Davison own and that Parliament wanted to use against the suffragettes: If an educated woman has done this, they argued, what if the right was granted to vote any woman with or without training?
To address the claims, the Government approved a regulation known as the law of cat and mouse, which was to give freedom to women on hunger strike, let them recover and return to stop them later.
Despite the media campaign against him, Pankhurst and other activists continued their battle, not only in the Islands, also in the United States
“I do not like or our methods, we have achieved that woman suffrage is an issue that the cabinet of ministers has admitted that he can not put aside. It must be resolved in a short period of time. No other method except ours has achieved this results”. (Fragment of speech ‘Freedom or death’, Emmeline Pankhurst, delivered on November 13, 1913 in Connecticut, United States).
Emmeline Pankhurst had five sons and daughters, Christabel, the eldest, was also involved in the birth of WSPU. He studied law at Manchester, his hometown, and starred in some confrontations in the press, especially with Ada Nield, representing the Labour Party, which feared that the suffragette movement defend only the vote of a portion of the female population and thus Profits by voting for the Conservative party.
The media of the Pankhurst sisters starred in one of the most important episodes of the riots when, in 1905, in the speech rebuked Minister Edward Grey: “the government of Liberals Will allow the vote to women?”. Along with the activist Annie Kenney, he refused to stop yelling and leave the rally. Both were arrested and subsequently jailed.
This incident gave a lot of public visibility to the suffragettes. Christabel shared prison with her mother Emmeline and it was his right hand.
At the birth of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) Pankhurst several members of the family were involved. Following in the footsteps of his parents, Richard and Emmeline, Sylvia Pankhurst was one of the most prominent activists. Although feminism bound her to his mother, his political vision was different.
Sylvia was a pacifist and was against the war and from young militated in workers and socialist parties.
After the achievement of women’s suffrage in 1928, Sylvia continued to work for equality of women of working class and spent part of his life working in social projects in Ethiopia, where he died in 1960.
The smallest of the Pankhurst, Adela, actively participated in the WSPU, founded by his mother and sisters, but emigrated to Australia in 1914 where he was an activist for peace, feminism and human rights. She was arrested for his actions at rallies and public events of Winston Churchill and ended up in jail on several occasions, one of them for allegedly assaulting a policeman and another for throwing stones.
At one point, from 1910, he distanced himself from her sister Christabel and her mother Emmeline to take a critical stance with increasing violent actions of the movement.
It was the cofounder of the Australian Communist Party but, later, it disenchant of Marxism and participate in the launch of the Australian Imperial Guild Mujeres, a right-wing grouping.
This photo of Helen and Laura Pankhurst, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Emmeline respectively, belongs to a rally organized by the Feminist Association UK. Suffragette dressed as his illustrious family, demanded equal rights between men and women on October 24, 2012, in London.
Under the slogan ‘Facts not words’, which appears on the tombstone of Emily Davison, hundreds of women across the UK gathered outside Westminster to lobby their MPs and local deputies for not to vote any initiative that could mean a setback in the struggle that began in the eighteenth century.
Currently, Britain has a Minister for Women and Equality, Maria Miller. In total, of the 26 members of the cabinet of current Prime Minister David Cameron, only five are women. In Parliament and the House of Lords the percentage of representation of women is 1 for every five men.
Sources: History. BBC. Website of the British Parliament. famous speeches. The Guardian: Emmeline Pankhurst and Germaine Greer.