I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this in the last 75 months when people (inevitably) mishear my daughter’s name. Emmeline. Pronounced Emma-leeeeen. As in Pankhurst, yes, that is who she’s named after.
Only yesterday, the roles were reversed. A lady overheard me call Emmeline in the street after her ballet class. She immediately said, “such a pretty name. As in Pankhurst?”
Yes!!! I feel a weird sense of pride when anyone even knows who Ms Pankhurst is. And an equal feeling of sadness when others have no clue.
So today is a very brief history lesson. A post dedicated to one of my heroes, Ms Emmeline Pankhurst.
She was born…
Emmeline Goulden in Moss Side, Manchester on the 14th or 15th July 1858. The date is questionable as her birth was filed several months late. She was the eldest of ten children.
Emmeline’s parents were political activists and abolitionists and supporters of women’s suffrage.
She was fourteen when she attended her first political rally.
Returning from studying in Paris, Emmeline met her future husband, Dr. Richard Pankhurst in Manchester, in 1878. He was a lawyer and strong supporter of quite radical causes, including women’s suffrage. He was 24 years older than Emmeline and they married at the end of 1879.
They had five children: daughters Christabel, Sylvia and Adela, and sons Frank (who died in childhood) and Harry.
This is the most fascinating and inspiring aspect of Emmeline’s life. Her sheer determination to stand up for what she believed in was incredible. Despite numerous arrests, threats and can you even imagine the sexist discrimination she faced? she stood fast in her plight for a slightly more equal standing in society for women.
Once they are determined, nothing on earth and nothing in heaven will make women give way; it is impossible.
In 1903, Emmeline created a new women-only group focused solely on voting rights, the Women’s Social and Political Union. It is here that her infamous slogan “Deeds not words” was first used.
Emmeline realised the power of a more combative approach to the cause, following the wide attention given to the arrest of her daughter Christabel alongside one other WSPU member in 1905. From then on, their methods became destructive but a lot more impactful.
In 1909 several women began to engage in hunger strikes while in prison. Many were violently force-fed, though this also led to early release for many of the suffragettes. When Pankhurst was given a nine-month sentence in 1912 for throwing a rock at the prime minister’s residence, she too embarked on a hunger strike. However, spared from force-feeding, she was soon released.
In 1913, Emmeline was given a three year sentence after an explosive device went off in an unoccupied house being built for the chancellor of the exchequer, David Lloyd George. She literally didn’t give a damn. And the continual cycle of arrest – hunger strike – release, ran up to the start of the first world war.
I can only admire Emmeline’s determination and two fingers up approach to politics. And every time I vote in an election, I bore my girls further with tales of “we wouldn’t be able to do this if Emmeline hadn’t stood up to the men in power.”
Women (over 21) were given the vote on 2nd July 1928, however, sadly Emmeline died less than a month before this at the age of 69 in London on 14th June.
Thankfully, we still have women similar to Emmeline in their determination. Ready to stand up against the people in power who regularly make selfish decisions that are detrimental to the masses.
I would love to be more Emmeline.