Emmeline Pankhurst - Suffragettes and Leadership
Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928)
English suffragette (pictured right), who led the militant campaign to win the vote for British women.
Those over 30 eventually got it in 1918, extended to the over 21’s in 1928,
the same as for men.
For more information about the
Davison's Death at the Derby in the History Highlights section.
Why was she successful and a great leader?
1. Purpose and vision
Pankhurst (pictured right being arrested in 1914):
- devoted her life to women’s rights.
- realized that women themselves must fight for them.
She told a court in 1912:
“We are here, not because we are lawbreakers; we are here in our efforts to become
2. Courage and determination
Pankhurst (pictured in prison) and her fellow suffragettes were very brave
In prison they:
- were brutally force-fed with a tube.
The controversial Cat and Mouse Act allowed the release and then re-arrest of hunger
strikers, so they wouldn’t die.
In 1912 alone, Pankhurst went to prison 12 times.
3. Communication and charisma
She inspired people with her charisma and great speeches.
When she spoke, a fellow suffragette and writer, Rebecca West (pictured right), said she
was “trembling like a reed” but the reed was “of steel and it was tremendous”.
4. Brilliant organizer and tactician
She set up the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903, helped by her daughters,
Christabel (pictured right) and Sylvia, and many other dedicated women.
Their campaigns certainly brought the suffragette cause great publicity, particularly Emily
Davison’s (pictured right below) tragic death at the 1913 Derby.
More controversial is the effectiveness of her violent tactics (arson, window smashing and picture
She ended her campaign, when the First World War began in 1914
Some historians argue that women’s involvement in the war did more to win their vote than
5. Dignity and integrity
Despite the fierce opposition of the government, she was always true to the principle of defending
women’s rights as voters and human beings.
6. Benign dictatorship
She was autocratic but she gave her followers a choice about which
militant acts to use.
Her dictatorial leadership gave the suffragette movement unity and decisive direction, which:
She was heavily influenced by the radical views of her:
- father, Robert Goulden (a Manchester manufacturer)
- husband, Richard Pankhurst (a lawyer, who gave her dedicated support, pictured
His death in 1898 left her devastated and without money to bring up her four children including Christabel and
Sylvia (pictured right below).
But her determination turned her grief into success.
Key quotes on
We are here, not because we are lawbreakers; we are here in our efforts to become lawmakers
As long as women consent to be utterly governed, they will be.
How different the reasoning is that men adopt when they are discussing the cases of men and those of women.
Men make the moral code and they expect women to accept it.
The argument of the broken pane of glass is the most valuable argument in modern politics.