Emmeline Pankhurst has won the vote to be the subject of the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Manchester for over 100 years. She received more than half of the 5,301 votes cast in an online poll.  

“Manchester is a city
which has witnessed
a great many stirring
episodes, especially
of a political character.
Generally speaking, its
citizens have been
liberal in their
sentiments, defenders
of free speech and
liberty of opinion”
Emmeline Pankhurst

Mrs Pankhurst was a leading British women’s rights activist who led the movement to win the right for women to vote and is widely considered to have been the most influential woman of the twentieth century.  

She was born in Moss Side on July 15th 1858 and was introduced to women’s suffrage through her parents’ interest in the subject. She went to her first meeting at the age of 14 and formed the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903. Its members, who included her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, were the first to be called suffragettes. 

She believed that despite years of moderate speeches and promises by MPs, no progress had been made in achieving the vote for women and that direct political action was therefore necessary. This included cutting telephone lines, window smashing and chaining themselves to railings. 

She was was convicted of conspiracy to commit property damage and imprisoned in Holloway Prison where she went on hunger strike and was force-fed by officers. 

During World War I, women were drafted into factories and took on many jobs previously done by men. This helped to lessen the opposition to women’s suffrage.  

In 1918, the vote was granted to women over the age of 30 with some restrictions. She died on June 14th 1928 at the age of 69 in London. 18 days later, the Representation of the People Act finally gave women equal voting rights with men.

A statue of her was erected in Victoria Tower Gardens, London in 1930. 

62 Nelson Street, her family home where the first meeting of the WSPU was held, is now the Pankhurst Centre, a museum and heritage centre dedicated to her family and the suffragette movement. 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.

 

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