Emmeline Pankhurst, 1858-1928


Emmeline Goulden was born on 14 July 1858 in Manchester into a family with a tradition of radical politics. In 1879 she married Richard Pankhurst, a lawyer and supporter of the women’s suffrage movement. He was the author of the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882, which allowed women to keep earnings or property acquired before and after marriage. His death in 1898 was a great shock to Emmeline.

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.