Following the text are portraits I have made of a small selection of individuals from the mid to late l9th century who had influenced the suffragist movement in Britain. Emmeline Goulden, later Pankhurst as leader of the WSPU listed some of the people who influenced her world view as a child and teenager, and I have done portraits of some of these:
One of my earliest recollections (1863) is of a great bazaar which was held in my native city of Manchester, the object of the bazaar being to raise money to relieve the poverty of the newly emancipated negro slaves in the United States. My mother took an active part in this effort, and I, as a small child, was entrusted with a lucky bag by means of which I helped to collect money. Young as I was—I could not have been older than five years—I knew perfectly well the meaning of the words slavery and emancipation.”My Own Story, Emmeline Pankhurst, (1914, 1)
I was fourteen years old (1872) when I went to my first suffrage meeting. Returning from school one day, I met my mother just setting out for the meeting, and I begged her to let me go along. She consented, and without stopping to lay my books down I scampered away in my mother’s wake. The speeches interested and excited me, especially the address of the great Miss Lydia Becker, who was the Susan B. Anthony of the English movement, a splendid character and a truly eloquent speaker. She was the secretary of the Manchester committee, and I had learned to admire her as the editor of the Women’s Suffrage Journal, which came to my mother every week. I left the meeting a conscious and confirmed suffragist. I suppose I had always been an unconscious suffragist. With my temperament and my surroundings I could scarcely have been otherwise. The movement was very much alive in the early seventies, nowhere more so than in Manchester, where it was organized by a group of extraordinary men and women. (ibid, 9)
In 1873 at age fifteen Emmeline’s parents enrolled her in a very progressive private school for girls in Paris. There she befriended the daughter of Henri Rochefort of the Paris Commune:
My roommate in this delightful school was an interesting young girl of my own age, Noemie Rochefort, daughter of that great Republican, Communist, journalist, and swordsman, Henri Rochefort. This was very shortly after the Franco-Prussian War, and memories of the Empire’s fall and of the bloody and disastrous Commune were very keen in Paris. Indeed my roommate’s illustrious father and many others were then in exile in New Caledonia for participation in the Commune. My friend Noemie was torn with anxiety for her father. She talked of him constantly, and many were the blood-curdling accounts of daring and of patriotism to which I listened. Henri Rochefort was, in fact, one of the moving spirits of the Republican movement in France, and after his amazing escape in an open boat from New Caledonia, he lived through many years of political adventures of the most lively and picturesque character. His daughter and I remained warm friends long after our school-days ended, and my association with her strengthened all the liberal ideas I had previously acquired. (ibid, 11)
After Emmeline graduated four years later, she returned to Manchester and the women’s suffrage movement. It was here that she met her future husband, an activist lawyer, Richard Marsden Pankhurst:
I was between eighteen and nineteen when I finally returned from school in Paris and took my place in my father’s home as a finished young lady. I sympathised with and worked for the woman-suffrage movement, and came to know Dr. Pankhurst, whose work for woman suffrage had never ceased. It was Dr. Pankhurst who drafted the first enfranchisement bill, known as the Women’s Disabilities Removal Bill, and introduced into the House of Commons in 1870 by Mr. Jacob Bright. The bill advanced to its second reading by a majority vote of thirty-three, but it was killed in committee by Mr. Gladstone’s peremptory orders. Dr. Pankhurst, as I have already said, with another distinguished barrister, Lord Coleridge, acted as counsel for the Manchester women, who tried in 1868 to be placed on the register as voters. He also drafted the bill giving married women absolute control over their property and earnings, a bill which became law in 1882. My marriage with Dr. Pankhurst took place in 1879. (ibid, 12)
Emmeline helped her husband Richard Pankhurst run for office under the Liberals but his campaign was thwarted by opposition from Charles Stewart Parnell leader of the movement for Home Rule for Ireland:
In 1885, a year after the failure of the third women’s suffrage bill, my husband, Dr. Pankhurst, stood as the Liberal candidate for Parliament in Rotherline, a riverside constituency of London. I went through the campaign with him, speaking and canvassing to the best of my ability. Dr. Pankhurst was a popular candidate, and unquestionably would have been returned but for the opposition of the Home-Rulers. Parnell was in command, and his settled policy was opposition to all Government candidates. So, in spite of the fact that Dr. Pankhurst was a staunch upholder of home rule, the Parnell forces were solidly opposed to him, and he was defeated. I remember expressing considerable indignation, but my husband pointed out to me that Parnell’s policy was absolutely right. With his small party he could never hope to win home rule from a hostile majority, but by constant obstruction he could in time wear out the Government, and force it to surrender. That was a valuable political lesson, one that years later I was destined to put into practice. (ibid, 18)
Mrs. Pankhurst’s daughter Christabel represented the emerging generation of young feminists who would bring women’s suffrage to a new level of activism. The co-dependant nature of this mother daughter relationship was very particular and would take both of them to levels of leadership that neither might have accomplished on their own:
In the summer of 1902—I think it was 1902—Susan B. Anthony paid a visit to Manchester, and that visit was one of the contributory causes that led to the founding of our militant suffrage organization, the Women’s Social and Political Union. During Miss Anthony’s visit my daughter Christabel, who was very deeply impressed, wrote an article for the Manchester papers on the life and works of the venerable reformer. After her departure Christabel spoke often of her, and always with sorrow and indignation that such a splendid worker for humanity was destined to die without seeing the hopes of her lifetime realized. “It is unendurable,” declared my daughter, “to think of another generation of women wasting their lives begging for the vote. We must not lose any more time. We must act. (ibid, 7)
Emmeline and her husband were good friends with Keir Hardie. He would visit their family in their home in Manchester. Emmeline’s daughter Sylvia was especially impressed with him in those early days.
Ida B. Wells, who visited in the late 1900’s was also active in the American civil rights movement for African Americans.
Louise Michel was a French feminist and anarchist who defended at the barricades of the Paris Commune in 1871.
Henri Rochefort was a French journalist and noted polemicist, who agitated in favour of the Commune. Both he and Louise Michel spoke at the Pankhurst home in London in the 1890’s.
Charles Stewart Parnell, was a Protestant, Anglo/Irish landowner and British MP, who paradoxically for a member of his class, rose to become the nationalist leader of the Home Rule League and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. He achieved wide public recognition for his outstanding skills as an orator advocating for Ireland, the first and oldest colony of the British Empire whose native population was comprised mostly of Roman Catholic Celts who lived as impoverished, uneducated tenant farmers on small plots of land.
Jenny Julia Eleanor Marx, was a socialist activist, literary translator and daughter of Karl Marx, she spoke to a gathering at the Pankhurst family home in London prior to 1900
Richard Pankhurst, (the family patriarch until his death in 1898) was a socialist, a candidate for the Liberal Party and later the Labour Party and an early supporter of the movement for women’s suffrage.
Keir Hardie, was a trade unionist, socialist, Labour Party co-founder, Labour MP, a pacifist and supporter of women’s suffrage. I included a portrait of Hardie with his wife Lillias (Wilson) Hardie. They raised four children at their home in Scotland. He was a close friend of Mr. and Mrs. Pankhurst and after Mr. Pankhurst passed away and the WSPU was founded he volunteered his expertise and became a key advisor in the WSPU expansion to London and shortly after that his energies were directed towards Sylvia Pankhurst and her group promoting suffrage for working class women in the East End.