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Biography of Emmeline Pankhurst

Photo of Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst was one of the leaders of the Women’s suffrage movement in the early twentieth century.

When and Where was she Born?

14th July 1868, Manchester, England.

Family Background:

Emmeline Pankhurst was the daughter of Robert Goulden a radical businessman and Sophia Crane a passionate feminist and attendee at Women’s Suffrage meetings.


Manchester School. Finishing school in Paris at the age of 15. 280px;”

Timeline of Emmeline Pankhurst:

1870: Richard Marsden Pankhurst a lawyer, later to become Emmeline’s husband, drafts the first Married Women’s Property Act.

1878: She marries Richard Pankhurst who is 24 years her senior.

1880: Her daughter Christabel Harriette is born.

1882: Daughter Sylvia is born.

1889: Emmeline becomes a founder member of the Women’s Franchise League. Her husband Richard dies of a perforated ulcer.

1894: The League wins the right for Women to vote in local elections but not for the national parliament.

1895: She becomes a Poor Law Guardian which meant regular visits to the Work House and was particularly shocked at the way women were treated.

1901: Her daughter Christabel meets Eva Gore-Booth who was trying to encourage working women in Manchester to join the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and is so impressed with her work that she joins the movement also, closely followed by Emmeline and her sister Slyvia.

1903: Pankhurst founds the Women’s Social and Political Union in Manchester.

1905: Two of the Union members, Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney are eventually jailed in October after being thrown out for disturbing a Liberal Party meeting and “assaulting” police officers. They refused to pay their fines.

1906: Emmeline now organises the WSPU activities from London. Many marches and rallies are held and the Liberal Candidates are targeted during the elections. The women disturb Cabinet Meetings. The Daily Mail newspaper sneeringly described them as Suffragettes but the movement adopted the title with pride.

1908: She is jailed herself three times.

1910: On the 18th November Emmeline Pankhurst and her followers try to get into the House of Commons to see the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to protest against the dropping of the Conciliation Bill, which would have given votes to women. Pankhurst is refused entry by the police. The meeting breaks out into a riot as the women charge police lines and over 100 are arrested.

1912: The WSPU becomes increasingly more militant under the influence of Christabel who has fled to Paris to avoid arrest and arson attacks, window smashing and vandalising works of art take place. Emmeline is arrested twelve times during the year and serves a total of 30 days in jail.

1913: The so called “Cat and Mouse Act” is brought in. The Prisoners (Temporary) Discharge for Ill-Health Act which means that hunger-striking prisoners can be released until they are well enough to serve the rest of their sentences.

1914: At the beginning of the First World War Emmeline and Christabel call off their Campaign to support the War effort and all suffragettes are released from prison. She tours the United States, Canada and Russia to encourage the mobilisation of women.

1915: The WSPU changes the name of its newspaper from “The Suffragette” to “Britannia”.

1917: The WSPU changes its name to the Women’s Party.

Pankhurst statue
Statue of Emmeline Pankhust in Victoria Tower Gardens, London designed by A.G. Walker. There is a plaque to Christabel on the right and on the left is a medal denoting the Women’s Social and Political union (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1918: The representation of the People Act gives the vote to Women over 30. Pankhurst tours the U.S. and Canada for several years.

1926: Emmeline returns to England and is chosen as the Conservative Candidate for a seat in East London but her health takes a turn for the worse before she can be elected.

1928: The amended Representation of the People Act is passed a few weeks after her death which gives the same voting rights to women as to men. In April she receives the news that her daughter Sylvia has given birth to a child out of wedlock which was a major scandal at the time and had a profound effect on Emmeline’s health. Her health was already in decline after years of hunger strikes. Sylvia, however, was quite proud of the fact and proudly exclaimed that “marriage without legal union” was the most sensible option for liberated women. To make matters worse for Emmeline many people who read the story in the Newspapers, particularly in the USA, believed the “Miss Pankhurst” to be her more famous sister Christabel and it put an end to Emmeline’s quest to get a parliamentary seat once and for all. Her health declining rapidly she moved into a nursing home in Hampstead in London and requested that the doctor who attended her when she was on hunger strike in prison should be summoned.

When and Where did she Die?

14th June 1928, Dr Chetham Strode’s Nursing Home, London, England. Although the doctor requested that she be given a stomach pump, which horrified her daughters, her condition worsened before he could administer it.

Age at Death:



1878 to Richard Pankhurst a lawyer 24 years her senior.

Site of Grave:

Brompton Cemetery, West Brompton, London, England.

Places of Interest:


Women’s Library, Old Castle Street, E1 7NT.
Statue in Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Houses of Parliament.


Pankhurst Centre, 60-62 Nelson Street, Manchester, M13 9WP.