Emmeline Pankhurst (née Goulden; 15 July 1858 – 14 June 1928) was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement who 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 criticised for her militant tactics, and historians disagree about their effectiveness, but her work is recognised as a crucial element in achieving women’s suffrage in Britain.
Born in Moss Side, Manchester to politically active parents, Pankhurst was introduced at the age of 14 to the women’s suffrage movement. On 18 December 1879, she married Richard Pankhurst, a barrister 24 years older than her, known for supporting women’s rights to vote; they had five children over the next ten years.
He supported her activities outside the home, and she founded and became involved with the Women’s Franchise League, which advocated suffrage for both married and unmarried women. When that organisation broke apart, she tried to join the left-leaning Independent Labour Party through her friendship with socialist Keir Hardie but was initially refused membership by the local branch on account of her gender.
While working as a Poor Law Guardian, she was shocked at the harsh conditions she encountered in Manchester’s workhouses.
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