A hundred years ago this year women who were over the age of 30 just received the right to vote. This was a great victory for women in Britain and for all the suffragettes that made it possible.
But travel back a little further in time to July 14, 1858 where one of the most influential and important figures in the suffragette movement was born; Emmeline Pankhurst.
On what would have been her 150th birthday we explore just what made this notable woman a figure that would be remembered in history.
From the start of her life it seemed Emmeline would always be involved in the spider’s web we call politics. Born into the Gaulden family who had a history of radical political views, she married her husband Richard Pankhurst in 1879, 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.
This background and built-up frustration with discrimination led her to founding the Women’s franchise league to fight for the right to vote for married women but only in local elections.
However, this group was not enough to combat the views of the time and in October 1903 she aided in founding the first suffragettes, the militant group WSUP (Women’s social and political union).
WSUP over the course of its history gained controversy and gained the title of being a “radical” party due partly to its extreme methods of protest, smashing windows, damage of public property, starting fires and the famous hunger strikes.
Like many other activists at the time Emmeline was arrested on multiple occasions and when Pankhurst was arrested with a 9-month sentence for throwing a rock at the prime minister’s house she took part in hunger strikes. Luckily, for Emmeline she escaped being horrifically force fed and was freed shortly after.
However, it wasn’t all about ‘violent’ protest as Emmeline led many marches and performed countless speeches, but during the war years she actively encouraged WSPU members to put a hold on the demonstrations in order to take up jobs in factories to support the men that where fighting which greatly benefited the war effort.
Then a hundred years ago on the 6th February 1918 women who owned property and was over the age of 30 where given the right to vote. Unfortunately, Emmeline did die a few weeks before the voting age would be lowered to be equal to that of a man’s (21).
It is safe to say that Emmeline Pankhurst certainly had her impact on women’s rights movement and will forever be remembered as a figurehead for the suffragettes. While the right to vote was a big step we still have a way to go and I’m sure Emmeline’s great granddaughter, Helen Pankhurst, agrees.
If you want to hear her opinion, then you can check out our interview with her here.