July 15th 1858: Emmeline Pankhurst born
On this day in 1858, English suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was born in Manchester. Born as Emmeline Goulden, her family had a tradition of radical politics, as did her husband Richard Pankhurst. In 1889, she founded the Women’s Franchise League, and in 1903 the Women’s Social and Political Union. The latter was far more militant in its demands for female suffrage, resorting to criminal activities like vandalism and arson. The suffragettes were known for their hunger strikes in prison, which resulted in violent force-feeding; Pankhurst herself was subjected to this while in prison on hunger strike. The actions of suffragettes appeared hysterical and fanatical to contemporary observers - especially Emily Wilding Davison’s death upon jumping in front of a horse at the 1913 Derby - and did not lead to female suffrage. Their tactics were more extreme when compared to the moderate suffragists led by Millicent Fawcett, and even divided Pankhurst’s daughters, causing a rift in the family. Upon the outbreak of the First World War, Pankhurst and the suffragettes actively supported the war effort in factories and encouraging enlistment, which resulted in enfranchisement of women over thirty in 1918. This was not on par with men, and Pankhurst continued the struggle for the female voting age to be reduced to 21. Pankhurst, who had devoted her life to the cause of female equality, died soon before this was achieved in 1928.
“The condition of our sex is so deplorable that it is our duty to break the law in order to call attention to the reasons why we do”