Emmeline Pankhurst (15 July 1858 – 14 June 1928) was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement which helped women win the right to vote. In 1999 Time named Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, stating: "she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back." She was widely criticized for her militant tactics, and historians disagree about their effectiveness, but her work is recognized as a crucial element in achieving women's suffrage in Britain
FAMILY AND BIRTH Emmeline Goulden was born in the Manchester suburb. Although her birth certificate states otherwise, she believed that her birthday was a day earlier, on Bastille Day. The family into which she was born had been steeped in political agitation for generations. Her mother, Sophia Jane Craine, was descended from the Manx people of the Isle of Man and counted among her ancestors men accused of social unrest and slander.Her father, Robert Goulden, came from a modest Manchester merchant family with its own background of political activity. His mother worked with the Anti-Corn Law League, and Pankhurst's paternal grandfather was present at the Peterloo Massacre, when cavalry charged and broke up a crowd demanding parliamentary reform.Their first son died at the age of two, Pankhurst's parents had ten other children; she was the eldest of five daughters.
Christabel Pankhurst, often called the favourite child, spent almost 15 years working by her mother's side for women's suffrage.
Pankhurst felt connected to the storming of the Bastille, depicted here in a 1789 painting by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel, since she believed her birthday to be 14 July.
WOMEN'S SOCIAL AND POLITICAL UNION During these years Richard and Emmeline continued their involvement in the struggle for women's rights and in 1889 helped form the pressure group, the Women's Franchise League. The organisation's main objective was to secure the vote for women in local elections.In 1893 Richard and Emmeline Pankhurst returned to Manchester where they formed a branch of the new Independent Labour Party (ILP). In the 1895 General Election, Pankhurst stood as the ILP candidate for Gorton, an industrial suburb of the city, but was defeated.In 1894 Emmeline Pankhurst became a Poor Law Guardian. This involved regular visits to the Chorlton Workhouse and she was deeply shocked by the misery and suffering of the inmates. She became particularly concerned about the way women were treated and it reinforced her belief that women's suffrage was the only way these problems would be solved. Emmeline Pankhurst began organizing Sunday open-air meetings in the local park. The local authority declared that these meetings were illegal and speakers began to be arrested and imprisoned. Pankhurst invited Keir Hardie to speak at one of these meetings. On 12th July, 1896, over 50,000 turned up to hear Hardie, but soon after he started speaking, he was arrested. The Home Secretary, worried by the publicity Hardie was getting, intervened, and used his power to have the leader of the ILP released.
Pankhurst (wearing prison clothes) described her first incarceration as "like a human being in the process of being turned into a wild beast."
Portrait badge of Emmeline Pankhurst - c Sold in large numbers by the WSPU to raise funds for its cause - Museum of London
News of Emmeline Pankhurst's death was announced around the country, and extensively in North America. Her funeral service on 18 June was filled with her former WSPU colleagues and those who had worked beside her in various capacities. The Daily Mail described the procession as "like a dead general in the midst of a mourning army."Women wore WSPU sashes and ribbons, and the organisation's flag was carried alongside the Union Flag. Christabel and Sylvia appeared together at the service, the latter with her child. Adela did not attend.Press coverage around the world recognised her tireless work on behalf of women's right to vote – even if they didn't agree on the value of her contributions. The New York Herald Tribune' called her "the most remarkable political and social agitator of the early part of the twentieth century and the supreme protagonist of the campaign for the electoral enfranchisement of women."
The last resting place of Emmeline Pankhurst in Brompton Cemetery