Re­mem­ber­ing the suf­frag e GIRL P


The People - - NEWS FEATURES - By An­to­nia Paget

AS the cof­fin was car­ried through Lon­don streets watched by a som­bre crowd, ob­servers likened it to the fu­neral of a gen­eral mourned by his army.

Yet this was no dec­o­rated mil­i­tary of­fi­cer feted for vic­to­ries on the bat­tle­field – but a hero­ine who fought and won a dif­fer­ent kind of cam­paign.

This was the solemn send-off for suf­fragette leader Em­me­line Pankhurst, who died 90 years ago this week.

Her death fol­lowed a bout of ill­ness brought on by the stresses and strains of her long fight – the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice for the cause she be­lieved in.

Her pass­ing on June 14, 1928 at 69 was recog­nised as the loss of one of the cen­tury’s most in­flu­en­tial women.

The marches, lec­tures, jail and hunger strikes for the Votes For Women move­ment had taken a mas­sive toll on her health.

Trag­i­cally she died only weeks be­fore she was able to see all women over 21 get the vote. Only those over 30 had been en­fran­chised un­der the Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Peo­ple Act in 1918, which she and thou­sands of oth­ers fought for.

In a fur­ther twist her fu­neral ser­vice was held at St John’s Church in Smith Square – once the tar­get of a suf­fragette bomb plot.

To­day Em­me­line, who was buried in Bromp­ton Ceme­tery and por­trayed by Meryl Streep in the 2015 film Suf­fragette, is re­mem­bered as the in­spi­ra­tional fig­ure who led women to make a mark on his­tory.

And those who have fol­lowed in her foot­steps re­mem­ber her for­mi­da­ble char­ac­ter and en­dur­ing legacy. Her great­grand­daugh­ter Dr He­len Pankhurst, a women’s rights ac­tivist and au­thor, said: “Foot­steps is a good word for it. It con­jures up im­ages of all the march­ing that they did.

“As soon as I think about Em­me­line I think about her im­age as a pub­lic icon.

“A sin­gle, vis­i­ble sym­bol of women’s rights with the at­tributes of strength, charisma, per­se­ver­ance and power.”

Born Em­me­line Goulden in 1858 in Manch­ester, el­dest of 10 chil­dren, she grew up in a po­lit­i­cally charged fam­ily.

Her par­ents were slav­ery abo­li­tion­ists and sup­port­ers of fe­male suf­frage, tak­ing Em­me­line to her first meet­ing at 14.

In 1878 she mar­ried Dr Richard Pankhurst, a lawyer who backed women’s suf­frage and rights over prop­erty and money. Af­ter she had five chil­dren – Christa­bel, Sylvia, Adela, Harry and Frank, who died young – her hus­band en­cour­aged her pas­sion for the ad­vance­ment of women.

She founded the Women’s Fran­chise League in 1889, which fought to al­low mar­ried women to vote in lo­cal elec­tions.

Four years later she helped form the more mil­i­tant Women’s So­cial and Po­lit­i­cal Union.

The group had non-vi­o­lent roots but later Em­me­line ad­vo­cated di­rect ac­tion and her re­solve for “Deeds not Words” deep­ened. The WSPU gained no­to­ri­ety as an army of women will­ing to bomb post­boxes, burn down build­ings and die for the cause. In 1913, mem­ber Emily Dav­i­son was killed when she stepped in front of the King’s horse at the Derby. He­len, 53, a se­nior ad­viser to CARE In­ter­na­tional, said: “For me fun­da­men­tally Em­me­line’s legacy is about women de­mand­ing power in tra­di­tional but also in new ways. “For women to be taken se­ri­ously some­times they need to do bat­tle in the way that men have. “They have to re­fus will­ing

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STRUG­GLE: Em­me­line’s ar­rest at the Palace, 1914 CAM­PAIGNER: Em­me­line at the height of bat­tle IN­SPIRED: He­len hon­ours ‘icon’

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