Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 to 1928)

Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, campaigner and co-founder of the women's suffragette movement

Where did Emmeline Goulden become the world-famous 'Mrs Pankhurst'? It was in Salford!

'Mrs Pankhurst' was to become one of the most influential women in Britain. In 1903, she formed the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), whose members were later dubbed "suffragettes", in support of women's suffrage - the right to vote.

Early years

According to the register of births, Emmeline Goulden was born in Moss Side, Manchester to a calico printer and his wife on 15 July 1858, though confusion surrounds the precise date.

She always claimed to have been born on 14 July  - Bastille Day. Did she choose the more romantic date of Bastille Day for her own birthday, a date which marked the start of the French Revolution, with its links to justice and equality?

Emmeline grew up in a family that was socially and politically active. Her father Robert Goulden campaigned against slavery and her mother Sophia was an ardent feminist, introducing Emmeline to women's suffrage meetings.

As a girl, her education was not seen as important as that of her brothers. She wrote in her autobiography of the night her father leaned over her bed and memorably commented: "What a pity she wasn't born a lad!"

Dr Richard Pankhurst

At the age of 20, Emmeline met Dr Richard Pankhurst, who was a Manchester-based liberal lawyer and activist.

Richard Marsden Pankhurst was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1834. He attended Manchester Grammar school and the University of London, and was called to the bar in 1867. He became closely involved in a variety of radical causes and was particularly interested in women's suffrage. Dr Pankhurst was known as a pacificst, an agnostic and a socialist; his controversial views did not win him many clients, but did afford him a place of great respect within the Independent Labour Party.

Richard Pankhurst was 24 years older than Emmeline, but she was instantly attracted to him. Following a whirlwind romance, they married at St Luke's in Weaste - on 18 December 1879. The bride's address was given as Seedley, and the groom's as Old Trafford.

Five children

The couple's first child, Christabel Harriette, was born the following year. Alongside her mother, Christabel was to become a leader of the WSPU, helping to lead the women's suffrage movement towards more militant tactics. She and Oldham suffragette Annie Kenney became the first suffragettes to be imprisoned for "the cause".

Richard and Emmeline were to have four more children: Estelle Sylvia (in 1882, an artist who designed the WSPU's posters and banners), Francis Henry (1884 to 1888), Adela Constantia (1885) and Henry Francis (1889).

The Pankhurst family lived at several addresses in Manchester until Dr Pankhurst's sudden death from a perforated ulcer in 1898. Mrs Pankhurst then had to find a new home for herself and her children, and they subsequently moved to 62 Nelson Street in Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester in what was evidently a downsizing exercise.

Their Chorlton home is now the Pankhurst Centre, where visitors can see a recreation of the parlour as it would have been in Mrs Pankhurst's day. The room contains Christabel's piano and Sylvia's typewriter.

Campaign won

The family later moved to London to better pursue their fight for votes for women. The campaign led by Emmeline and her followers was ultimately successful, with women over the age of 30 finally granted the vote in 1918. Emmeline, whose interest in radical politics was sparked during her early days in Salford, died in 1928.

Fittingly, it was the year women achieved the same voting rights as men.

This page was last updated on 21 February 2013

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