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Pankhurst, Emmeline (1858–1928), Christabel (1880–1958), and Sylvia (1882–1960)

June Purvis


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The Pankhurst women, suffragettes and social reformers, are the most important feminist family in British history. Emmeline Goulden, the spirited eldest daughter of a cotton manufacturer, was born in Manchester, England, where she met and married Richard Marsden Pankhurst, a well-known radical barrister. Their three daughters – Christabel Harriette Pankhurst, Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst, and Adela Constantia Mary Pankhurst (1885–1961) – were brought up in a household where their parents supported advanced causes of the day, especially women's suffrage and socialism. From an early age, the girls were taken to political meetings and encouraged to work for the good of the people. The death of Richard in 1898 was a devastating blow. When Emmeline heard that the hall built in her husband's memory was to be used by a branch of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) that would not admit women she was so indignant that she formed the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903 to campaign for the parliamentary vote for women. The WSPU, with the motto “Deeds, not words,” limited its membership to women and engaged in daring and courageous tactics that became newsworthy. Known for public displays and radical efforts to gain the vote for women in Britain, suffragettes often found themselves at odds with the police. In June 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst is taken away by authorities after leading ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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