EMMELINE AND CHRISTABEL PANKHURST

EMMELINE AND CHRISTABEL PANKHURST

(Respectively, b. July 14, 1858, Manchester, Eng.—d. June 14, 1928, London; b. Sept. 22, 1880, Manchester, Eng.—d. Feb. 13, 1958, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.)

Emmeline Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst were militant crusaders (mother and daughter) for woman suffrage in England. Emmeline’s 40-year campaign achieved complete success in the year of her death, when British women obtained full equality in the voting franchise.

In 1879 Emmeline Goulden married Richard Marsden Pankhurst, a lawyer who was a friend of British philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill, as well as the author of the first woman suffrage bill in Great Britain (late 1860s) and of the Married Women’s Property acts (1870, 1882).

Ten years later she founded the Women’s Franchise League, which secured (1894) for married women the right to vote in elections to local offices (not to the House of Commons).

From 1895 Emmeline Pankhurst held a succession of municipal offices in Manchester, but her energies were increasingly in demand by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which she founded with her daughter, Christabel Harriette Pankhurst, in 1903, in Manchester.

Christabel Pankhurst (later Dame Christabel) advo-cated the use of militant tactics to win the vote for women in England. Reflecting the union’s slogan, “Deeds not Words,” Pankhurst, with Annie Kenney, unfurled a banner reading “Votes for Women” at a Liberal Party meeting in Manchester on Oct. 13, 1905.

Her action received world-wide attention after she and Kenney were thrown out of the meeting for demanding a statement about votes for women. The two were arrested in the street for a technical assault on the police and, after having refused to pay fines, were sent to prison. Christabel subsequently directed a campaign that included direct physical action, hunger strikes, and huge open-air rallies.

Beginning in 1906, Emmeline Pankhurst directed WSPU activities from London. Regarding the Liberal government as the main obstacle to woman suffrage, she campaigned against the party’s candidates at elections,and her followers interrupted meetings of Cabinet minis-ters.

In 1908–09 Pankhurst was jailed three times, once for issuing a leaflet calling on the people to “rush the House of Commons.” A truce that she declared in 1910 was broken when the government blocked a “conciliation” bill on woman suffrage.

From July 1912 the WSPU turned to extreme militancy, mainly in the form of arson directed by Christabel from Paris, where she had gone to avoid arrest for conspiracy.

Pankhurst herself was imprisoned, and, under the Prisoners Act of 1913 (the “Cat and Mouse Act”), by which hunger-striking prisoners could be freed for a time and then reincarcerated upon regaining their health to some extent, she was released and rearrested 12 times within a year, serving a total of about 30 days.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Emmeline and Christabel called off the suffrage campaign, and the government released all suffragist prisoners. During the war, Christabel declared a suffrage truce and helped lead the war effort in England.

Emmeline, meanwhile, continued to lecture on woman suffrage, visiting the United States, Canada, and Russia to encourage the industrial mobili-zation of women. She lived in the United States, Canada, and Bermuda for several years after the war.

In 1926, upon returning to England, she was chosen Conservative candidate for an east London constituency, but her health failed before she could be elected. The Repre-sentation of the People Act of 1928, establishing voting equality for men and women, was passed a few weeks before her death.

Emmeline Pankhurst’s autobiography, My Own Story, appeared in 1914. In later life, Christabel Pankhurst became a religious evangelist. In 1936 she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.