The prob­lem with Pankhurst

The Week - - Letters Pick Of The Week’s Correspondence - To The Guardian

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

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