Search site
Chiltern District Council
Search site

Emmeline Pankhurst Day

Emmeline Pankhurst

The right to vote has been fought for, marched for, and died for in recent history. Less than 100 years ago, women died during their struggle to get the vote. In South Africa, it was not until the end of Apartheid in 1994 that black people were able to vote for the first time.

Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928)

Emmeline Pankhurst was the driving force behind the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in support of women's suffrage - the right to vote. She became one of the most influential women in Britain.

Early years

Emmeline Goulden was born on either 14 or 15 July 1858, and grew up in a socially and politically active family. Her father was part of the anti-slavery campaign, and her mother was a keen feminist. In 1879, she married Dr. Richard Pankhurst, who was a member of the Independent Labour Party and was particularly interested in women's suffrage.

The campaign for the vote

Emmeline's involvement in politics deepened after she was married. She grew disillusioned with the existing women's political organisations and founded the WSPU. A primary aim was to recruit working class women into the fight for equal voting rights with men.

By 1905 the media's interest in women's voting rights had dwindled. Newspapers refused to publish articles and letters in support of suffrage. The WSPU made the decision to use more extreme, militant methods to ensure that the cause gained the publicity required to win the vote.

Between 1907 and 1914 Emmeline Pankhurst was imprisoned repeatedly. Her actions inspired many women to follow her example of committing acts of civil disobedience. The militant tactics involved the use of arson and physical attacks of members of the government.  Members of the WSPU were regularly arrested and imprisoned.

The tactics of the WSPU changed abruptly on the outbreak of the First World War; using their energies to help the domestic war effort. This included playing a prominent role in the Government's recruitment campaign. The work carried out by the Suffragettes during the war proved that women were also required in the defence of the country, and that they were responsible enough to be granted the vote.

Campaign won

The campaign led by Emmeline, the WSPU and other Women's Suffrage Societies was ultimately successful, with women over the age of 30 finally granted the vote in 1918. Emmeline Pankhurst died in 1928. Fittingly, it was the year women achieved the same voting rights as men. The 14 July has been designated as the day to remember her campaign and work for women's suffrage.