The Pankhursts: united in be­liefs, torn apart by rows

One hun­dred years this week af­ter women got the vote, Dr He­len Pankhurst de­scribes the di­verg­ing for­tunes of those in her fam­ily who were to change so many lives

The Sunday Telegraph - - Faetures & Arts - O ine Tele­graph:

In the his­tory of so­cial change it is al­most un­heard of to have a mother and her daugh­ters lead a move­ment in the way the Pankhursts did. They were brought to­gether by their fem­i­nist be­liefs, but they were, over time, torn apart: by ar­gu­ments such as whether lead­er­ship should be demo­cratic or au­thor­i­tar­ian; whether to cam­paign only on the vote or bring in wider women’s rights con­sid­er­a­tions; how closely to link with other so­cial re­form agen­das; whether to have a po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion.

They were also split by how to re­spond to other events, in­clud­ing the world wars. Their story high­lights the com­plex­ity of the in­ter­sec­tion be­tween gen­der, party and global pol­i­tics, re­li­gion, sex­ual rights and fam­ily struc­ture.

Once the First World War was de­clared, Em­me­line mme­line and Christa­bel stopped overtly rtly cam­paign­ing for the vote, be­liev­ing ng they could fur­ther the cause by sup­port­ing the war ef­fort. They be­came staunch na­tion­al­ists, mak­ing friends of old po­lit­i­cal cal foes in­clud­ing David Lloyd George, cam­paigned for women to play a full part art – not on the front line, but ut in the fac­to­ries and on the land, and, sus­tain­ing the na­tion through hrough the war ef­fort. They be­came in­volved olved in sham­ing men n into en­list­ing to prove their mas­culin­ity lin­ity and com­mit­ment ment to king and coun­try, un­try, partly by giv­ing ving out white feath­ers athers to men who had not signed up. p.

For a while e Em­me­line also lso adopted four r or­phaned “war war ba­bies” and cam­paigned for other fam­i­lies to do the same. At the end of

1917, Em­me­line and Christa­bel formed the Women’s Party, the first at­tempt at an in­de­pen­dent women’s par­lia­men­tary party. It es­poused pa­tri­o­tism, prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions to the war such as re­duc­ing food wastage, in­tro­duc­ing kitchens and co­op­er­a­tive hous­ing, abol­ish­ing trade unions, and adopt­ing pro­gres­sive fem­i­nist poli­cies. These in­cluded equal pay for equal work, equal mar­riage and di­vorce laws, ma­ter­nity ben­e­fits, equal rights for par­ents and equal­ity in pub­lic ser­vice. Em­me­line went on to travel ex­ten­sively in the US and be­came a Cana­dian cit­i­zen. She came back to Eng­land and joined the Con­ser­va­tive Party, plan­ning to stand for elec­tions. How­ever, she fell ill and died on June 14 1928, the fi­nal stage for the Equal Fran­chise Bill of 1928 tak­ing place on the day of her fu­neral. Em­me­line is reg­u­larly named in lists of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple p p of the 20th cen­tury. On July 14 each year, her of­fi­cial birth­day, the Suf­fragette Suf­fra Fel­low­ship – whi which had raised funds for fo a statue of her in Vic­tori Vic­to­ria Tower Gar­dens be­side besid the Houses of Par Par­lia­ment – started the tra­di­tion tra of putting pur­ple, pur­ple green and white flow­ers by b her statue. The tra­di­tion is c con­tin­ued by the Con­ser­va­tiv Con­ser­va­tive Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion. In 1968, Em­melin Em­me­line was the first no non-royal fe­male to be comm com­mem­o­rated on a stam stamp, as part of the 50-year 5 an­niv an­niver­sary of 1918.

Chr Christa­bel, Emm Em­me­line’s el­dest daugh­ter, daug was the s strate­gist and the f fam­ily mem­ber mem most com­mit­ted com to mil­i­tancy. milit In 1912, she es­caped e im­pris­on­ment impr for suf­fragette suf­frag ac­tiv­i­ties, acti flee­ing to France. She also cam­paigned on “pu­rity for men”, chastity out­side mar­riage, given the dan­gers from sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases. Af­ter her fail­ure to get into Par­lia­ment, she moved to Cal­i­for­nia in 1921 and be­came a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the Protes­tant Sec­ond Ad­ven­tist move­ment. She re­turned to the UK in the Thir­ties and, in a com­plete re­ver­sal, was hon­oured by George V as a “Dame Com­man­der of the Or­der of the Bri­tish Em­pire” be­fore re­turn­ing to the US where she died on Feb 13 1958.

Adela, Em­me­line’s youngest daugh­ter, had been a tire­less North­ern ac­tivist of the Women’s So­cial and Po­lit­i­cal Union. She was shipped off to Aus­tralia by Em­me­line in 1914 for health rea­sons and be­cause Em­me­line was fear­ful of emerg­ing po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween them. There she mar­ried, and, with her hus­band Tom Walsh, was ac­tive in the mil­i­tant Sea­men’s Union and, in 1920, be­came a found­ing mem­ber of the Aus­tralian Com­mu­nist Party. Al­though she re­mained a life­long paci­fist, her po­lit­i­cal views moved from the far Left to the far Right. She be­came in­volved in the Aus­tralian Women’s Guild of Em­pire in 1927, to cam­paign against Communism, safe­guard fam­ily and Chris­tian val­ues, and pro­vide sup­port to work­ing-class women in the face of the eco­nomic de­pres­sion.

My grand­mother, Sylvia, was Em­me­line’s mid­dle daugh­ter. She was the artist be­hind many suf­fragette de­signs and cam­paigned in the East End of Lon­don, in­clud­ing by edit­ing a se­ries of news­pa­pers. At the same time she looked for so­lu­tions to the prac­ti­cal needs of im­pov­er­ished women. She was also ex­pelled from the WSPU by Christa­bel and Em­me­line, but con­tin­ued the work re­gard­less, un­der the new name of the East Lon­don Fed­er­a­tion of Suf­fragettes. She was a paci­fist in the First World War, sym­pa­thetic to the Easter Ris­ing in Ire­land and was quick to speak out about the dan­ger of fas­cism be­fore the Sec­ond World War. By then, Sylvia had be­come in­creas­ingly in­volved in do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional Left-wing pol­i­tics.

To walk through the ar­chives with He­len, go to www.tele­ women

In to­mor­row’s 100 years on, there is still some way to go

Em­me­line’s daugh­ters, from top, Christa­bel, Sylvia, grand­mother to He­len, left, and Adela, were all po­lit­i­cally ac­tive and had very dif­fer­ent views Ex­tracted from by He­len Pankhurst, pub­lished on Feb 8 by Scep­tre (£25). To or­der your copy for £19.99 plus p & p call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.tele­

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