There are currently efforts to ensure that men and women have equal rights in all the societies. Proponents of these efforts urge authorities to guarantee that all societal undertakings view women as equally as men. They cite the principles of natural justice and human equality as the basis of their arguments. As per to this, those urging for this kind of equality for women have been referred as to feminists. Currently, the term feminist is usually used in reference to both men and women but in the early years of its use it was specifically reserved for women who, in a male dominated society, were able to voice their calls for equality of men and women in their societies. One such feminist was Emmeline Pankhurst who throughout all her life chose to fight and ensure that all people in the British society were treated equally regardless of whether they were men or women.
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Emmeline Pankhurst was born in the Moss Side area of Manchester in the year 1858. During her time of birth, the whole of the British society was fully dominated by men. Women were denied most of the basic rights and any one who could stand to object that mainstream way of life was severely punished. Although records indicate that Emmeline Pankhurst was born on July 15th, she maintained that she was born on July 14th, a date which analysts have argued that she may have chosen it because it coincided with the start of the French Revolution, popularly referred as to the Bastille Day (Smith 2014). The French Revolution is mostly famous because of its pro-women equality ambitions that led to women being guaranteed of their liberal rights in France.
Even in her earliest years of life, Emmeline had shown all signs that she wanted to be a pro-women rights activists. Her father had sent her to study in France and she was motivated by her teachers in France to adopt and take part in the revolution which aimed to force authorities to guarantee women all the rights that men enjoyed. As was the norm then, women never studied physical sciences like chemistry and physics in schools because they were thought to be intellectually weak. To compound and magnify this, women were never allowed to mix with boys during their learning activities hence the reason why Emmeline studied in a girls-only school in France (Purvis 2002). However, in her school, the teachers their taught chemistry and bookkeeping lessons and Emmeline proved to be a competent student who after her studies returned back home to help her father run his business, mostly helping him with his book keeping duties.
Emmeline got married to Dr. Richard Pankhurst, a liberal lawyer, in the year 1879 when she was aged twenty years old. Dr. Pankhurst was 24 years older than Emmeline and he held socialist views and in most instances he was a supporter of radical movements which championed for human liberties including the cause of securing the rights of women in the British society. Dr. Pankhurst had a political inclination towards the Independent Labour Party and with his legal experience he was able to create links with the likes of Keir Hardie, Annie Besant, William Morris and George Bernard Shaw, who were all among the leading politicians of that time. The marriage between Emmeline and Dr. Pankhurst helped improve her cause to fight and attain the rights for women as it propelled her to the very centre of the British political arena.
On the 10th day of October 1903, Emmeline together with a group of other women formed the Women’s Social and Political Union. This was a women’s-only group mostly aiming to influence the politics of the then Britain to adopt a system that could guarantee full women rights. The Women’s Social and Political Union was to work closely with the Independent Labour Party with an aim of demanding for women rights while also championing for the call to initiate women suffrage which was argued by the group’s members as the only way the British society could attain sexual equality (Crawford 2001). After sometime time, Norah Dacre, a fierce militant was appointed as the secretary general of the group and it effectively took the status of one of the most robust propagandist group in the British political arena.
Like Mrs. Pankhurst, her daughters Christabel and Sylvia also took part in the struggle for the equality of women in the British political and social ways of life. Christabel was one of the most notable women in the Women’s Social and Political Union. She often gave rousing speeches filled with propaganda against the authorities that had failed to guarantee and protect the rights of women as those of men. She was arrested and sent to prison, actions that influenced her mother to even magnify her fight for women equality with men and suffrage (Bearman 2005). Sylvia was also an activist, who although she was not as active in the frontline of the struggle, was an important player to the union. She often created the banners and could craft ideas that were held in the speeches that were read delivered by her elder sister Christabel. Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested multiple times and she was sent to prison where in some instances took part in hunger strikes which proved to work in favour of her ambitions to attain equal rights for both men and women.
As the First World War began, Emmeline Pankhurst was forced to halt her campaigns given the violent nature of the war. At this instance, they were forced to take a patriotic perspective which saw the release of all the women that had been arrested by the then government. In order to showcase their new patriotic stand during the war, Emmeline led the Union to change its tactics and they effectively changed the name of the magazine of the Union from The Suffragettes to Britannia (Purvis 2011). After the end of the war, the British government showed signs of giving in to the calls to grant women the rights that had previously been exclusive to men. As such, The Representation of the People’s Act of 1918 granted women above the age of 30 and those who were property owners the right to vote in a “University Constituency”. In the later years of her life, Emmeline Joined the Conservative Party helping it to transform its image in the political Arena of Britain.
Finally, in the amendment of the Representation of the People’s Act of 1928, the government fully accorded women all the rights like those of men. In this amendment, women who had attained 21 or more years of age could vote regardless of whether they owned property or not. However, Emmeline did not live to see this amendment as she had died a few days earlier aged 69 years old at a nursing home in Hampstead. Her contribution to the liberties of women in the British society is still of note and history will always judge her practice till the end of times.
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