July 14, 1858 Manchester, England - June 14, 1928 London, England
Life of Pankhurst: Emmeline Goulden was born into a family with a tradition of radical politics. Her parents were abolitionists and supporters of female suffrage. At age 14, her mother brought her to her first women`s suffrage meeting. She became an avid reader at a young age. Although she loved to read, she was never given the same educational experiences as her brothers. Her parents made her brothers education more important than her own, this became something that stayed with Emmeline and deeply bothered her. She later married and her husband, Richard Pankhurst, was a lawyer and supporter of the women`s suffrage movement. Pankhurst was arrested a number of times in her life, which followed with hunger strikes and being force fed while in prison. In 1928 she became ill, forcing her to move into a nursing home before passing away on June 14.
Main Ideas and Accomplishments: Pankhurst is one of the most important figures in the early women`s suffrage movement. Pankhurst founded the Women`s Franchise League and secured married women`s right to vote in local offices in 1894. Her husband was the author of the first women`s suffrage bill in Great Britain and the Married Women`s Property Acts. In 1903, Emmeline founded the Women`s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Pankhurst was arrested three times for crimes consisting of crashing political parties meetings, protests and demonstrations against political candidates which included window smashing, hunger strikes and arson all in the fight for women equality. Because of Great Britain`s "Cat and Mouse Act", during Emmeline`s hunger strikes, she would be let go from prison and not detained again until she regained her health. She was released and rearrested twelve times within one year serving roughly thirty days. Her suffrage campaign was only called off in 1914 at the start of WWI, and the government released all suffrage inmates. During the war, Pankhurst visited the United States, Canada and Russia to promote the industrial mobilization of women. Pankhurst`s strongest fight though, equal voting rights for men and women, saw light a few weeks before her death when the Representation of the People Act was passed in 1928 establishing voting equality among all men and women in England (at 21 years of age).
World`s View of Pankhurst: Pankhurst went across Great Britain protesting for the women`s suffrage movement, sometimes going to extensive means, like arson, to get attention and spread awareness to her cause. Many people were not ready for or were opposed to Pankhurst`s ideas. Most men at the time were not used to women`s strong presence in politics as Pankhurst envisioned them to soon be. Initially voting rights were only granted to married women. The politicians at the time, all male, had figured that the women would vote similar to their husbands and would not change things too drastically. Eventually though, all women were granted equal voting rights in Great Britain in 1928. While many opposed it, there were thousands who were supporters and "suffragettes" during the women`s suffrage movement. Outside of England, Pankhurst traveled to different parts of the world including the United States, Canada and Russia to promote the industrial mobilization of women.
Relevance Then and Now: Emmeline Pankhurst was one of the most important and influential women in the women`s suffrage movement and one of the greatest fighters for women equality world wide at the time. She was able to accomplish equal voting rights for women in Great Britain along with spreading the word of women`s rights across the globe. Figures like Pankhurst still spark a light in people`s fight for equality today. All that she was able to accomplish in her life time shows the difference that one person can make through spreading awareness and organizing larger groups supporting a cause. Women all around the world experience Pankhurst and her organizations work every day and whenever they go to work, go to purchase property or step into a voting booth. The impact Pankhurst left on this world is one that will forever be felt by women and all feminists forever.