Pankhurst, Emmeline (1858–1928) By Weihman, Lisa
Emmeline Pankhurst was born Emmeline Goulden in Manchester, England. One of the most prominent activists in the suffrage movement, Pankhurst founded both the Women’s Franchise League (1883), and the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU, 1903). She married Richard Pankhurst (1834–1898), a barrister, in 1879, and had five children: Christabel (1880–1958); Sylvia (1882–1960); Francis Henry (1884–1888); Adela (1885–1961); and Henry Francis (1889–1910). All three of the Pankhurst daughters became political activists in socialist and suffrage organizations.
In her autobiography, My Own Story, Pankhurst writes, “Men make the moral code and they expect women to accept it. They have decided that it is entirely right and proper for men to fight for their liberties and their rights, but that it is not right and proper for women to fight for theirs” (1914: 268). Pankhurst’s work connected her with many of the leading socialist, labor, and suffrage activists of her day, including Annie Besant, Keir Hardie, William Morris, Eleanor Marx, and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence. In 1894 Pankhurst investigated conditions at the Chorlton Workhouse, which galvanized her activism. “I thought I had been a suffragist before I became a Poor Law Guardian, but now I began to think about the vote in women’s hands not only as a right but as a desperate necessity” (ibid.: 28).