The world lost one of its greatest female fighters 90 years ago this week. Born in Moss Side, Manchester, to politically active parents, Emmeline Goulden was introduced in her early teens to the women's suffrage movement. In 1879, aged 21, she married Richard Pankhurst, a barrister 24 years older than she was, known for supporting women's rights to vote; they had five children over the next ten years. In 1903, five years after her husband died, Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), an all-women suffrage advocacy organisation dedicated to ‘deeds, not words’. Emmeline became an outspoken advocate for direct action and the WSPU became known for its physical confrontations and militant tactics – Pankhurst, her daughters, and other WSPU activists received repeated prison sentences, where they staged hunger strikes to secure better conditions, and were often force fed. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act granted votes to all men over 21 and women over 30 (provided they met certain criteria). Unfortunately for Emmeline, the marches, lectures, jail and hunger strikes took a massive toll on her health and she died on 14 June 1928, aged 69, just weeks before the government extended the vote to all women over 21 years of age.
“I would rather be a rebel than a slave.”Emmeline Pankhurst