Emmeline Pankhurst

Other names: 

Emmeline Goulden

Date of birth: 
14 Jul 1858
City of birth: 
Hulme, Lancashire
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
14 Jun 1928
Location of death: 

Emmeline Pankhurst was one of the foremost suffragettes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century period in Britain, whose tireless campaigning in the face of family tragedy, police brutality and failing personal health has made her an icon of British politics. She was born on either 14 or 15 July 1858 (see Purvis p. 9 for discussion of this matter).

Emmeline married the barrister and political activist Richard Pankhurst in 1879. The Pankhursts were close friends of Keir Hardie, founder of the Labour Party. They were also early members of the Fabian Society following their move to London in 1886. In the spring of 1900 (two years after Richard’s death), Pankhurst left the Fabian Society on account of its refusal to oppose the Boer War, which she interpreted as an act of imperial aggression.

Visitors to the Pankhursts' Russell Square home in the 1880s included Dadabhai Naoroji, the first Indian to become an MP. Later Indian connections included Emmeline’s work with the prominent suffragettes Princesses Sophia and Catherine Duleep Singh, daughters of Maharaja Duleep Singh (last Maharaja of the Sikh empire in Punjab) and his first wife Bamba Müller. Sophia was also the god-daughter of Queen Victoria, and marched with Pankhurst to Parliament on 'Black Friday' in 1910.

During the First World War, opposing two of her daughters, Sylvia and Adela, Pankhurst campaigned with her eldest daughter Christabel for the war effort. In 1916 and again in 1920, Pankhurst addressed the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, a Canadian society initially founded in 1900 to promote patriotism for those leaving to fight in South Africa. In 1920 Pankhurst spoke of the need for women to be loyal to the Empire in order to aid recovery in the aftermath of the war. By 1925, Pankhurst espoused a ‘maternal, imperial feminism that gave high priority to women’s role in raising the moral tone of the nation and Empire’ (Purvis, p. 338).

Emmeline Pankhurst unsuccessfully stood as Conservative candidate for Whitechapel and St George’s in 1926. The Conservative Party was then under the leadership of Stanley Baldwin, for whom Pankhurst proposed a vote of thanks at a large Conservative Party meeting in the Albert Hall, London. The revelation in the press that her estranged daughter Sylvia had had a child out of wedlock horrified Emmeline, and curtailed her campaign. She died two years later, the same year as equal voting rights were extended to women in Britain.


Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Stanley Baldwin, Lord Curzon, Charlotte Despard, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Mohandas K. Gandhi, David Lloyd George, Keir HardieDadabhai Naoroji, Sylvia Pankhurst, Catherine Duleep Singh, Sophia Duleep Singh.

Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, Independent Labour Party (joined 1893, left in 1903 on account of the hall dedicated to her husband not admitting women), Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage (joined 1880), Women’s Franchise League, Women’s Liberal Association (left 1893), Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

Published works: 

My Own Story (London: Eveleigh Nash, 1914)

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Suffragette (aka Britannia)

Votes for Women

Secondary works: 

Bartley, Paula, Emmeline Pankhurst (London: Routledge, 2002)

Chaudhuri, Nupur, and Strobel, Margaret, (eds.), Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and resistance (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992)

Grewal, Inderpal, Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire, and the Cultures of Travel (London: Leicester University Press, 1996)

MacKenzie, Norman and Jeanne, The Fabians (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1977)

Pankhurst, Christabel, Unshackled: The Story of How We Won the vote (London: Hutchinson, 1959)

Pankhurst, E[stelle] Sylvia, The Life of Emmeline Pankhurst: The Suffragette Struggle for Women’s Citizenship (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1935)

Pankhurst, E[stelle] Sylvia, India and the Earthly Paradise (Bombay: Sunshine Publishing House, 1926)

Purvis, Jane and Holton, Sandra Stanley (eds), Votes for Women (London: Routledge, 2000)

Purvis, Jane, Emmeline Pankhurst: A Biography (London: Routledge, 2002)

Archive source: 

Letters and papers, Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis, Amsterdam

Manuscripts, Suffragette Fellowship Collection, Museum of London

Correspondence with the Independent Labour Party, British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics

Correspondence, Women’s Library, London Metropolitan University, London

Letters to C. P. Scott, John Rylands University Library of Manchester

Correspondence with Adelaide Johnson, Library of Congress, Washington, DC