Emmeline Pankhurst

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Emmeline Goulden

Also Known As: "Emmaline"
Birthdate: (69)
Birthplace: Manchester, Lancashire, England UK
Death: June 14, 1928 (69)
London, Middlesex, England UK
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Robert Goulden and Sophia Goulden
Wife of Richard Marsden Pankhurst
Mother of Christabel Pankhurst; Sylvia Pankhurst; Francis Henry Pankhurst; Adela Pankhurst and Henry Francis Pankhurst
Sister of Robert Goulden; Eva Gertrude Brown; Alfred Harold Goulden; Herbert Brownridge Goulden; Effie Goulden and 4 others

Managed by: Randy Schoenberg
Last Updated:

About Emmeline Pankhurst

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmeline_Pankhurst - (please visit for full citations)

Emmeline Pankhurst (born Emmeline Goulden) (15 July 1858 – 14 June 1928) was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement which 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 criticized for her militant tactics, and historians disagree about their effectiveness, but her work is recognized as a crucial element in achieving women's suffrage in Britain.

Born Emmeline Goulden and raised in Moss Side, Manchester, England by politically active parents, Pankhurst was introduced at the age of 8 to the women's suffrage movement. Although her parents encouraged her to prepare herself for life as a wife and mother, she attended the École Normale de Neuilly in Paris. In 1878 she married Richard Pankhurst, a barrister 24 years her senior known for supporting women's right to vote; they had five children over the next ten years. He also supported her activities outside the home, and she quickly became involved with the Women's Franchise League, which advocated suffrage for women. When that organization broke apart, she attempted to join the left-leaning Independent Labour Party through her friendship with socialist Keir Hardie but was initially refused membership by the local branch of the Party on account of her sex. She also worked as a Poor Law Guardian and was shocked by the harsh conditions she encountered in Manchester workhouses. After her husband died in 1898, Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), an all-women suffrage advocacy organisation dedicated to "deeds, not words." The group placed itself separately from – and often in opposition to – political parties. The group quickly became infamous when its members smashed windows and assaulted police officers. Pankhurst, her daughters, and other WSPU activists were sentenced to repeated prison sentences, where they staged hunger strikes to secure better conditions. As Pankhurst's oldest daughter Christabel took the helm of the WSPU, antagonism between the group and the government grew. Eventually arson became a common tactic among WSPU members, and more moderate organisations spoke out against the Pankhurst family. In 1913 several prominent individuals left the WSPU, among them Pankhurst's daughters Adela and Sylvia. The family rift was never healed.

With the advent of the First World War, Emmeline and Christabel called an immediate halt to militant suffrage activism in support of the British government's stand against the "German Peril." They urged women to aid industrial production and encouraged young men to fight. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act granted votes to women over the age of 30. Pankhurst transformed the WSPU machinery into the Women's Party, which was dedicated to promoting women's equality in public life. In her later years she became concerned with what she perceived as the menace posed by Bolshevism and – unhappy with the political alternatives – joined the Conservative Party. She died in 1928 and was commemorated two years later with a statue in London's Victoria Tower Gardens.

Emmeline Goulden was born on 15 July 1858 in the Manchester suburb of Moss Side. Although her birth certificate states otherwise, she believed that her birthday was a day earlier, on Bastille Day. Most biographies, including those written by her daughters, repeat this claim. Feeling a kinship with the female revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille, she said in 1908: "I have always thought that the fact that I was born on that day had some kind of influence over my life." The reason for the discrepancy remains unclear.

The family into which she was born had been steeped in political agitation for generations. Her mother, Sophia Jane Craine, was descended from the Manx people of the Isle of Man and counted among her ancestors men accused of social unrest and slander. Pankhurst's Manx heritage was a possible source of her political consciousness, especially since the Isle of Man was the first country to grant women the right to vote in national elections, in 1881. Her father, Robert Goulden, came from a modest Manchester merchant family with its own background of political activity. His mother worked with the Anti-Corn Law League, and Pankhurst's paternal grandfather was present at the Peterloo Massacre, when cavalry charged and broke up a crowd demanding parliamentary reform.

Although their first son died at the age of two, Pankhurst's parents had ten other children; she was the eldest of five daughters. Soon after her birth the family moved to Seedley, on the outskirts of Salford, where her father had co-founded a small business. Goulden was active in local politics, serving for several years on the Salford Town Council. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of dramatic organisations including the Manchester Athenaeum and the Dramatic Reading Society. He owned a theatre in Salford for several years, where he played the leads in several plays by William Shakespeare. Pankhurst absorbed an appreciation of drama and theatrics from her father, which she used later in social activism.


The Gouldens included their children in social activism. As part of the movement to end slavery in the US, Goulden welcomed American abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher when he visited Manchester. Sophia Jane Goulden used the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin – written by Beecher's sister Harriet Beecher Stowe – as a regular source of bedtime stories for their sons and daughters. In her 1914 autobiography My Own Story, Pankhurst recalls visiting a bazaar at a young age to collect money for newly-freed slaves in the United States.

Pankhurst began to read books when she was very young – according to one source, at the age of three. She read the Odyssey at the age of nine and enjoyed the works of John Bunyan, especially his 1678 story The Pilgrim's Progress. Another of her favourite books was Thomas Carlyle's three-volume treatise The French Revolution: A History; she later said the work "remained all my life a source of inspiration."

Despite her avid consumption of books, however, Emmeline was not given the educational advantages enjoyed by her brothers. Their parents believed that the girls needed most to learn the art of "making home attractive" and other skills desired by potential husbands. The Gouldens deliberated carefully about future plans for their sons' education, but they expected their daughters to marry young and avoid paid work. Although they supported women's suffrage and the general advancement of women in society, the Gouldens believed their daughters incapable of the goals of their male peers. Feigning sleep one evening as her father came into her bedroom, Emmeline Goulden heard him pause and say to himself: "What a pity she wasn't born a lad."

It was through her parents' interest in women's suffrage that Pankhurst was first introduced to the subject. Her mother received and read the Women's Suffrage Journal, and Pankhurst grew fond of its editor, Lydia Becker. At the age of 14, she returned home from school one day to find her mother on her way to a public meeting about women's voting rights. After learning that Becker would be speaking, she insisted on attending. Pankhurst was enthralled by Becker's address and wrote later: "I left the meeting a conscious and confirmed suffragist."

A year later she arrived in Paris to attend the École Normale de Neuilly. The school provided its female students with classes in chemistry and bookkeeping, in addition to traditionally feminine arts such as embroidery. Her roommate was Noémie, the daughter of Henri Rochefort, who had been imprisoned in New Caledonia for his support of the Paris Commune. The girls shared tales of their parents' political exploits, and remained good friends for years. Pankhurst was so fond of Noémie and the school that after graduating she returned with her sister Mary as a parlour boarder. Noémie had married a Swiss painter and quickly found a suitable French husband for her English friend. When Robert Goulden refused to provide a dowry for his daughter, the man withdrew his offer of marriage and Pankhurst returned, miserable, to Manchester.

Marriage and family

In the autumn of 1878, at the age of 20, Emmeline Goulden met and began a courtship with Richard Pankhurst, a barrister who had advocated women's suffrage – and other causes, including freedom of speech and education reform – for years. Richard, 44 years old when they met, had earlier resolved to remain a bachelor in order to better serve the public. Their mutual affection was powerful, but the couple's happiness was diminished by the death of his mother the following year. Sophia Jane Goulden chastised her daughter for "throwing herself" at Richard and urged her without success to exhibit more aloofness. Emmeline suggested to Richard that they avoid the legal formalities of marriage by entering into a free union; he objected on the grounds that she would be excluded from political life as an unmarried woman. He noted that his colleague Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy had faced social condemnation before she formalised her marriage to Ben Elmy. Emmeline Goulden agreed, and they were wed in Eccles on 18 December 1879.

During the 1880s, living at the Goulden cottage with her parents in Seedley, Emmeline Pankhurst tended to her husband and children, but still devoted time to political activities. Although she gave birth to five children in ten years, both she and Richard believed that she should not be "a household machine." Thus a servant was hired to help with the children as Pankhurst involved herself with the Women's Suffrage Society. Their daughter Christabel was born on 22 October 1880, less than a year after the wedding. Pankhurst gave birth to another daughter, Estelle Sylvia, in 1882 and their son Francis Henry, nicknamed Frank, in 1884. Soon afterwards Richard Pankhurst left the Liberal Party after a wealthy group of pro-imperialist members took power. He began expressing more radical socialist views and argued a case in court against several wealthy businessmen. These actions roused Robert Goulden's ire and the mood in the house became tense. In 1885 the Pankhursts moved to Chorlton-on-Medlock, and their daughter Adela was born. They moved to London the following year, where Richard ran unsuccessfully for election as a Member of Parliament and Pankhurst opened a small fabric shop called Emerson and Company.

In 1888 Francis developed diphtheria and died on 11 September. Overwhelmed with grief, Pankhurst commissioned two portraits of the dead boy but was unable to look at them and hid them in a bedroom cupboard. The family concluded that a faulty drainage system in the back of their house had caused their son's illness. Pankhurst blamed the poor conditions of the neighbourhood, and the family moved to a more affluent middle-class neighbourhood at Russell Square. She was soon pregnant once more and declared that the child was "Frank coming again." She gave birth to a son on 7 July 1889 and named him Henry Francis in honour of his deceased brother.

Pankhurst made their Russell Square home into a centre for grieving sisters, attracting activists of many types. She took pleasure in decorating the house – especially with furnishings from Asia – and clothing the family in tasteful apparel. Her daughter Sylvia later wrote: "Beauty and appropriateness in her dress and household appointments seemed to her at all times an indispensable setting to public work." The Pankhursts hosted a variety of guests including U.S. abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, Indian MP Dadabhai Naoroji, socialist activists Herbert Burrows and Annie Besant, and French anarchist Louise Michel.

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Emmeline Pankhurst's Timeline

July 15, 1858
Manchester, Lancashire, England UK
September 22, 1880
Age 22
Stretford, Lancashire, England, U.K.
May 5, 1882
Age 23
Manchester, Greater Manchester, UK
February 1884
Age 25
June 19, 1885
Age 26
Manchester, Greater Manchester, England, United Kingdom
July 7, 1889
Age 30
June 14, 1928
Age 69
London, Middlesex, England UK