In 1889 Emmeline founded the Women’s Franchise League, which fought to allow married women to vote in local elections. Regarded by many as a dangerous subversive, Emmeline Pankhurst was the charismatic leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union – an organisation that gained much notoriety for its militant activities and whose members were the first to be christened ‘suffragettes’. British politicians, press and public were astonished by the demonstrations, window smashing, arson and hunger strikes of the suffragettes. In 1913, WSPU member Emily Davison was killed when she threw herself under the King’s horse at the Derby as a protest at the government’s continued failure to grant women the right to vote.
Like many suffragettes Emmeline was arrested on numerous occasions. She was imprisoned 13 times between 1908 and 1914, and used hunger, thirst and sleep strikes to endanger her health so that she would be released.
In 1918 the Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30. She died while campaigning in June 1928, less than a month before a bill giving women equal voting rights with men became law.