…And a worthy one at that. An exceptional force hailing from Moss Side, Manchester, Emmeline Pankhurst went down in history as one of the founders of the historical Suffragette movement, a movement which is credited to this day for women’s ability to vote, and consequently as a feminist icon. And while today we may take voting for granted, the change was a huge step forward in recent history and a key event that can only be applauded for shaping the way we ladies live our lives freely in 2023. It’s been a long road to equality, but Emmeline Pankhurst’s journey helped us overcome some of the most important hurdles of the last two centuries.
A political activist born in 1858, Pankhurst was born to ‘politically active’ parents and exposed to women’s issues from a young age – lighting the fire within her that changed modern women’s lives for the better. While Pankhurst didn’t live a particularly long life, passing away at age 69, what the activist achieved during her lifetime will never be forgotten, thanks to her sheer commitment and dedication to women’s suffrage.
That’s not to say that people agreed with Pankhurst’s campaigning methods, and while her journey was most definitely a bumpy ride with rifts along the way, the destination has made her one of the most iconic figures in feminism. Making her voice known, the activist regularly campaigned publicly, attracting crowds and crowds of supporters who wanted to hear what she had to say. In fact, it’s this style of campaigning that inspired her statue on St Peter’s Square by Hazel Reeves, where Pankhurst is depicted standing on a chair and sharing a passionate speech, arm spread wide engaging her audience.
Pankhurst founded a number of organisations during her lifetime – all of which fought for women’s rights – including the Women’s Social and Politican Union, the Women’s Franchise League, and later the Women’s Party (derived from the original WSPU). Fantastically stubborn and refusing to give up after being refused entry to the Independent Labour Party because of her gender, Pankhurst took matters into her own hands – providing a place for women to have their voice heard in a male-dominated political landscape. Years later, Pankhurst’s daughters continued with their mother’s legacy, working with her on the Women’s Party which was dedicated to promoting women’s equality in public life.
Pankhurst, unfortunately, did not live to see her campaigns come to complete fruition, however, just weeks after she passed away, the Conservative government extended the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928, allowing women over the age of 21 to vote for the first time ever. More than half of her life was devoted to changing the future for females, paving the way for change and inspiring others to speak up, fight for what is right, and most importantly, never give up.
Emmeline Pankhurst is commemorated with a statue on St Peter’s Square, in Manchester city centre, which is often visited and gifts left for the feminist icon on International Women’s Day, and can be found directly opposite the tram stop and Manchester Central Library.