I believe that the most significant person in history of women is Emmeline Pankhurst. Historians disagree about the effect of her activity on public support for the cause of women’s votes. However she was widely, criticised for her militant tactics,her work is recognised as a crucial element in achieving women suffrage in Britain. I am going to explain what it means to be significant, a biography of Emmeline Pankhurst, her actions, the long term and short term impacts of her actions, more importantly I am going to conclude the significance of Emmeline Pankhurst in relation to other women.
There are many factors to being significant in history. The meaning of significant is important in some way. To be significant I believe you have to be someone, who creates a great change, with a very big impact, that affects a large number of people, or someone who creates a change on government legislations. Someone that can make changes that can change so much more with just one goal. Emmeline Pankhurst born 15th July 1858 was a leading women’s rights activist, who led the movement to win the right for women to vote. Born as Emmeline Goulden, raised in Manchester into a family with a tradition of radical politics.
Emmeline Pankhurst’s father was a successful businessman, while her mother Sophia Crane was a passionate feminist. It was Emmeline’s mother first, who introduced her into the families world of radical political beliefs. It was Sophia who took her daughter Emmeline to her first ever women’s suffrage meetings in the early 1870’s, when she was only 8 years old! Although her parents encouraged her to prepare herself for a life as a wife and a mother, her parents sent her to a girls school in Paris at the age of fifteen, to finish off the rest of her education.
The school was called Ecole Normale De Neuilly, soon after when she returned back to Manchester in 1878, she married Richard Pankhurst. Richard Pankhurst, a committed socialist, lawyer, barrister and supporter of the women’s suffrage movement. Richard and Emmeline were two perfect matches, though there was a significant age gap, he was forty four, while she was only twenty. However Richard Goulden gave permission for the marriage to take place. Emmeline had four children in the first six years of her marriage; Christabel (1880),Sylvia (1882), Frank (1884), and Adela (1885).
Richard Pankhurst supported Emmeline with activities she did outside the home, furthermore she quickly became involved with the woman’s Franchise League in 1889, which advocated suffrage for women. However that organisation broke apart, she attempted to join the left-leaning Independent Labour Party through her friendship with socialist Keir Hardie, but was initially refused membership by the local branch of the party on account of her gender. In 1895, Emmeline became a poor Law Guardian. This job involved her, going to regular visits to the local workhouse, where she was deeply shocked by the misery and the suffering of the inmates.
There were very young girls to pregnant women working in some of the most harshest of conditions. Obviously this would’ve resulted babies being born unhealthy, in some sort of poor condition. Emmeline became particularly concerned about the way women were treated and it reinforced her belief that women’s suffrage was the only way these problems would be solved. Richard and Emmeline Pankhurst both became active members of the independent Labour Party. Richard made several unsuccessful attempts to be elected at the House of Commons, but this political career came to an end when he died of perforated ulcer in 1898.
Richard’s death came a big shock to Emmeline, but his death just determined her involvement in politics even more. In 1903 she founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). As all woman suffrage advocacy organisation, dedicated to ‘deeds not words. ‘ the group quickly became infamous when its members smashed windows and assaulted police officers. They took this action to get the press involved, show people that they are serious about the decision of women’s votes. The suffragettes believed that publicity was one of the trigger factors to getting the vote for women, so this action was compulsory for them.
Pankhurst along with her daughters were sentenced to repeated sentences, where they staged hunger strikes to secure better conditions. They repeatedly did this, catching the attention of the public, getting even more supporters. Eventually arson became a common tactic among WSPU members. This is called the ‘cat and mouse act,’ introduced in 1913 people on hunger strikes were let out of prison, but then re-arrested when they grew back their strength. Below is a picture to demonstrate her arrests: The 1913 Derby and the act of Emily Wilding Davison shocked but also outraged the society.
There were groups of people who believed, she committed suicide, nevertheless others believed, that she was attempting to pin a suffragette banner on the kings horse, but ended up in a tragic accident. They’re are proof of both hypothesis for example; before the horse game, information was collected that she had bought a return train ticket back home, however they’re is proof of her trying to commit suicide for example; Emily Wilding Davison wanted to raise a profile for the suffragettes, maybe this is what she was suggesting.
The period of militancy was ended abruptly on the outbreak of war in 1914, when Emmeline turned her energies to supporting the war. In 1918, women had made their point, while doing all the men’s jobs while they were away at war, employers saw that woman could do men’s jobs without difficulty and without and training, which meant that they would also be cheaper to employ, so women had shown they were no different from men and should be given the equal opportunity. The representation of the peoples act gave voting rights to women over 30. Emmeline died in 14th June 1928.
Soon after , women were granted equal voting rights with men (at 21). two years later Emmeline was commemorated with a statue in Victoria Tower gardens in London. Emmeline Pankhurst a truly strong, willing woman, who would fight for the vote for women with their lives, cause violence to show how solemn and serious she was. The relationship with society that Emmeline had, wasn’t the best as she was seen as a chaotic, violent person, with strong willing power to not give up in her goals. However in women’s eyes she was the strength that led other women to civil disobedience.
Some of the actions Emmeline took had immediate impact, some had long impacts. For example a immediate impact due to her actions created by Emmeline was when, she created violence around the community. Smashing the windows, assaulting policemen were just some of her chaotic actions. The reason why Emmeline took these action that created these immediate impacts on the society are to make sure that the press don’t lose interest in the idea of getting woman the vote. As Emmeline believed publicity was apart of the formula to making Emmeline’s goals into reality.
Another action that Emmeline Pankhurst took, that created a immediate action is when she started to go on hunger strikes. She took this action, as policemen were not expecting her to make herself ill, making the policemen look bad towards the press, but helping the suffragettes gain support and also to get people to sympathise with the suffragettes. That immediate action created that immediate impact, that’s all that the suffragettes needed to make sure the press is on their side. This action was not done by anyone else, it was just such a act.
It just shows how determined Emmeline must’ve been to get these wishes granted, to bring the freedom to women that they deserved. A action that Emmeline done that created a long term impact is when, Emmeline joined the WSPU. This was a long term impact, was long because when she joined this organisation, people expected her to fight for her political beliefs. But because her immediate impacts created wasn’t consistent her getting the vote took a long time to get. By taking this action Emmeline made sure that no one forgot her and they knew exactly what she was trying to achieve.
Overall I believe that Emmeline Pankhurst is the most significant women in history. I believe this because if we use another women in society as an example, lets say for example; Baroness Lola Young, she has been notable for her rapid rise from lecturer to professor, and for the extent of peer recognition of her achievements. If Emmeline hadn’t fought for the freedom for women to vote, then Baroness Lola Young would probably never got all those excellent educational opportunities, or been known for her great successes. She most probably would’ve been doing a very small job or some house job if it weren’t for Emmeline Pankhurst.
Government legislations would’ve been different now if it weren’t for Emmeline. Lets use another person, for example, Emily Wilding Davison. Both women were from the same time period, so what make Emmeline more significant then Emily? I must admit that Emily Wilding Davison’s death triggered the vote for women greatly. However if Emmeline Pankhurst never brought up the idea of trying to fight for women’s equal rights to vote the maybe Emily mightn’t not died this way and triggered the decision of women votes so greatly.
Emmeline is definitely the most significant related to other woman because she created a change, that her actions and ways now still stand to this very day. She ticks all the boxes of what makes a significant person, but not only that but she has changed a government legislation that has changed whole lot more with it, for example, the way people think nowadays, education, jobs etc… By finally getting the vote just after she died, it meant politicians had to listen to the views of women, which then led to a more fairer peaceful Britain for women to live in, more importantly a more fairer place for the future children of Britain to live in.