Person: Emmeline Pankhurst

Date: 15 July 1858 – 14 June 1928

Place: Moss Side, Manchester.

Person: Emmeline Pankhurst 

What happened:

In 1898 she founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) whose motto was ‘deeds, not words’, a woman only admission policy. The groups militant tactics including smashing windows drew some controversy. When jailed they went on hunger strike concluding with the Cat and Mouse Act*. The militant tactics escalated, including arson, till two of her daughters including other suffragettes left the group in 1913. The eldest daughter Christabel took over the groups running from 1912. Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested several times, she once struck a policeman twice in the face to assure her arrest, determined to draw attention to the urgency of the need for women to have the vote. The group dissolved into the war movement in 1914.


She liked to claim she was born on 14th July, the day of the storming of the Bastille:

Feeling a kinship with the female revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille, she said in 1908: “I have always thought that the fact that I was born on that day had some kind of influence over my life.

She held a paid position as Registrar of Births and Deaths in Chorlton, 1895. This work gave her more insight into the conditions of women in the region. She wrote in her autobiography: “They used to tell me their stories, dreadful stories some of them, and all of them pathetic with that patient and uncomplaining pathos of poverty.’

Freedom or death speech:

‘No man was ever thrown out of parliament for asking questions’

‘Between spells in prison Pankhurst several times addressed audiences from a stretcher. Few people were photographed more often or to better effect. She even managed to be photographed in prison garb. From 1909 to 1914 untold numbers of badges bearing her photograph were sold for a penny each. Her speeches are those of a media celebrity, who knows that her audience is first of all curious to see her, regardless of whether they agree with her or not.

Rebecca West recalled hearing her lecture: “Trembling like a reed, she lifted up her hoarse, sweet voice on the platform, but the reed was of steel and it was tremendous.” Small, very slim, and usually fashionably gowned and hatted, Pankhurst projected a conscientiously feminine image. The American popular press, even as it sneered at the cause of women’s suffrage, agreed that she was a great entertainer. She delivered her “freedom or death” speech at Hartford, Connecticut, on November 13 1913.’ Germaine Greer 


Famous Photograph of Emmeline Pankhurst

Famous Photograph of Emmeline Pankhurst

Details to include in a postcard:

Crying babies

Breaking glass

Solitary confinement

*Cat and Mouse Act, 1913: Hunger striking prisoners were released until they grew strong again, and then re-arrested.



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