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Emmeline Pankhurst

The English reformer Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) led the movement for
women's suffrage in Great Britain, in the process developing agitational tactics still
controversial and consequential.
Emmeline Pankhurst was born Emmeline Goulden in Manchester on July 4, 1858. At the
age of 14 she accompanied her mother to a women's suffrage meeting. The next few years
Emmeline spent in Paris attending school. After her return she married Richard Pankhurst,
a barrister and an activist in radical causes, especially in women's suffrage. He died in
1898, leaving her with four children, including daughters Christabel (1880-1958) and Sylvia

Pankhurst had briefly joined the Fabian Society and then had joined the Independent
Labour party. She had held local offices as a Poor Law guardian, as a school board
member, and as a paid registrar of births and deaths. In all these experiences she had
observed the inferior position of women and their legal and social oppression by men. She
concluded that only political rights for women would emancipate women and reform society
at large.

In 1903 Pankhurst and Christabel formed the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).
From its founding, the WSPU held certain policies: Its membership was exclusively female;
it was independent of all political parties; it concentrated exclusively on the suffrage issue;
and it distrusted all promises and demanded immediate parliamentary action. Another
policy, developed in the next few years, was tactical militancy in harassing the Liberals, the
political party with the greatest number of sympathizers and after 1905 the party in power,
in order to force it to adopt women's suffrage as a party measure.

Pankhurst soon discovered that processions to the Houses of Parliament and hecklings and
disruptions of election meetings produced police countermeasures and thus newspaper
publicity favorable to her cause. The history of the movement recorded her mounting
frustration with Prime Minister Herbert H. Asquith's personal resistance to votes for women
and his consequent delaying tactics in Parliament.

In 1908 Pankhurst declared that the suffragettes would either convert the ministry by force
or see "the Government themselves destroyed." Soon the WSPU surpassed all other
dissident movements, if not in rhetoric, in its violence and in its disruption of public life. The
suffragettes organized campaigns of window smashing in central London, burned letters in
postboxes, defaced paintings, and burned unoccupied buildings. Pankhurst called this
escalation "guerrilla warfare" against property "to make England and every department of
English life insecure and unsafe." She stopped short only of endangering human life.

The ministry responded with arrests and imprisonment, of Pankhurst herself for the first
time in 1908. The women prisoners then began hunger strikes, which the officials met with
brutal forms of forced feeding. In 1913 the "Cat and Mouse" Act allowed the release of
fasting prisoners and their rearrest when they had recovered; under these terms Mrs.
Pankhurst served only 30 days (of a 3-year sentence) during a calendar year.

Historians have asserted that by 1914 violence had become an end in itself for the WSPU,
although Pankhurst always declared it temporary and historically and politically validated.
After 1912 Christabel Pankhurst, who had taken sanctuary in Paris, directed the strategy.
Yet the movement's objectives, as distinct from its tactics, had become less radical. It
accepted a "Conciliation Bill, " which excluded working-class women from the vote and
which opposed as impractical the introduction of genuinely universal suffrage. Finally, after
Sylvia Pankhurst's expulsion from the movement, on grounds of her socialism and
organizational activity among the lower classes, the ministry made her a formal promise of
government support. Because of the outbreak of World War I, the pledge could not be
redeemed until 1918, when most women over 30 years of age were enfranchised. Later,
the Representation Act of 1928 gave women the vote on the same basis as men. Emmeline
Pankhurst, who had played little part in the movement after 1914, died on June 14, 1928.

Emmeline Pankhurst. [Em linha]. Disponível em

[Consultado em 07/03/10].

Centenário da República
Centenário da Comemoração do Dia Internacional da Mulher