The problem with Pankhurst
June Purvis paints a very admirable picture of Emmeline Pankhurst as a colourful campaigner. But she was also an extremist who supported planting bombs and committing acts of arson. When anyone disagreed with her she simply tended to throw them out of the movement, including her own daughter, Sylvia Pankhurst, who believed workingclass women should have the right to vote, but her middleclass mother wasn’t interested and they fell out over it. So much for diversity.
Emmeline Pankhurst caused too much hoo-ha to possibly be forgotten, but as a radical society frowned upon, she made the issue of women’s votes frowned upon, and the only helpful thing she ever did was to put a stop to her militant “deeds not words” tactics after the outbreak of the First World War.
It was women doing their bit for the country by working in so many vital positions previously held by men that helped rebuild support for the suffragists’ cause. It was Millicent Fawcett and the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) pointing out the contribution they had made that was instrumental in achieving the Representation of the People Act in 1918. Not Pankhurst chaining herself to railings, heckling politicians and inflicting damage to property.
It’s about time more people heard of Millicent Fawcett, as she proves you don’t need to value or use militancy in a cause. Peaceful patience is key. Emilie Lamplough, Trowbridge, Wiltshire