#WOMANCRUSHEVERYDAY - Emmeline Pankhurst

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Who?

Emmeline Pankhurst was the illustrious founder and leader of the Women's Social and Political Union (est. 1903), a militant suffrage organisation with one aim: to secure voting rights for women.

How?

Pankhurst was born in 1858 into a deeply political family. By the young age of 14, she already established herself as a supporter of women's suffrage. Her fervent interest in politics continued to thrive as she immersed herself in the suffrage movement. However, peaceful petitioning over a 50-year period resulted in very little progress in obtaining female voting rights. With women no further forward, Pankhurst formed the WSPU in 1903 - a movement which focused on direct militant action to obtain female enfranchisement. Cue a turbulent 20-year period of violent protest in the form of arson, bombings, window smashing, imprisonment and hunger strikes. These activities were halted by WW1 in a militancy suspension and government truce, a factor which likely contributed to the granting of voting rights for women over 30 in 1918 (when women had taken over men's work as their wartime duty). Emmeline Pankhurst died shortly before equal voting rights to men were granted to women in 1928. Her dedication to the cause is a marked and inspirational example of women's indomitable desire for equality throughout history.

Why?

I have long considered myself a pacifist but when I read Emmeline Pankhurst's 'Why We Are Militant' speech, my view was transformed. Women protested peacefully for decades. They were law-abiding, gained a magnificent swell of support over the years, campaigned all over Britain and faced being de-sexed and dishonoured by a savagely misogynistic media for demanding suffrage equality. Pankhurst put forth ideas with such intelligent, relentless campaigning yet women having the vote was deemed too radical a notion to sway parliamentary change. Having exhausted all other means, the suffragette movement was formed and militancy was their strategy. After all - it was what men had done to achieve change. Emmeline Pankhurst was acutely aware of the injustices faced by women (eloquently documented in My Own Story) and yet she continued to lead the movement. She did so even when militant women - herself and daughter included - were mistreated as political prisoners, put down with brutality by police despite being the 'fairer sex' and received severe sentences for their mode of protest. They persisted and, eventually, prevailed. Emmeline Pankhurst is the ultimate woman crush and shall be forever be remembered for her crucial impact in achieving votes for women.


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