Political Supporters


Emmeline and Frederick Pethick -Lawrence, Socialists, Labour Party supporters, Publishers, WSPU primary Patrons and Executives 1910, acrylic on canvas, 12”x 15”, 2016

Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and her husband Frederick William Pethick-Lawrence based in London were the WSPU’s primary patrons, publicists and financial administrators from 1906 to 1912. They brought a substantial personal capital investment. Emmeline displayed great aptitude at raising donations. (£ 134000 over 6 years) Their public relations savvy, disciplined managerial acumen and extensive list of influential social contacts combined to foster stability, legitimacy and rapid expansion for the fledgling organisation. They supplied the space for the WSPU headquarters located at 4 Clements’s Inn, Strand, a building they owned. They graciously invited Christabel, who was also perusing her law degree at the time, to stay with them and made other rooms in their mansion available as a refuge to any injured suffragette if need be. Emmeline introduced a dress code and designed numerous stunning and well-orchestrated processions in the streets of London. She created the tri colours that embodied the values of the WSPU. On ‘Women’s Sunday’ June 21, 1908, the couple oversaw a historic rally for women’s suffrage in Hyde Park. That entire project was conceived by three young suffragettes without any prior experience in event planning. Trains were chartered to transport women from all over the U.K. Seven processions converged on the park and attendance swelled to hundreds of thousands on a warm summer day. Working class women were welcome. Reviews in the press were uniformly celebratory. The couple created an independent newspaper Votes for Women and they assumed the role of co-editors. They created a payroll to keep key women organisers employed full time in the London offices and in various branches across the country and at its peak employed sixty women as clerical staff that expanded headquarters to take up 37 rooms in the Inn. In addition, jail fines were paid for those activists who did not wish to be detained.


Sylvia Pankhurst recorded that it was Keir Hardie who arranged the earliest exploratory meetings between Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence and Sylvia and then afterward with Mrs. Pankhurst. The Pethick-Lawrences and Hardie were friends who had a shared interest in the Labour Party. When the first two meetings did not produce a commitment Hardie arranged a third meeting with Annie Kenney whose passion, vulnerability and plain speaking finally won the day. In 1907 it was the Pethic-Lawrences who asked Mrs. Pankhurst to revise the original democratic constitution of the WSPU and vote on it at the Annual Delegate Conference. Mrs. Pankhurst notified the membership in advance to vote for her as sole director with the power to appoint members to the executive committee at her discretion and that her policy decisions would be unilateral. At the conference her motion was approved by the majority making Emmeline Pankhurst the sole leader of the direct-action wing of the women’s suffrage movement in Britain.However, one out of every five suffragettes opposed this change and they resigned in mass and launched their own organisation called the Women’s Freedom League.

Millicent Fawcett, Author, Public Speaker and President of England’s National Union of Suffrage Societies 1910, acrylic on canvas, 10”x 12” (2020)

Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett , feminist, author and politician was leader of the larger more established, National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. Fawcett shared the same goals if not the tactics as the Pankhurst’s regarding breaking laws to make a point. In February 1907 her group organized a large 3000-woman march called the ‘United Procession of Women’, later called, the Mud March. It was the first time that suffragists had organised this type of public event and it inspired the WSPU’s own version the following year.