Has anyone heard of Emmeline Pankhurst? Emmeline was born in Manchester, UK in 1858. She was the daughter of very forward thinking parents for their time, Robert and Sophia Goulden. Briefly, Emmeline was highly instrumental in forming the UK’s Suffragette Movement and in doing so she eventually brought about the right for women to vote. Now OK, both our male and female readers could be forgiven for thinking, ‘hey hang on a minute, this is an attempt to promote feminist views’. However I can assure you it is not because I am not out to promote any kind of political agenda so please bear with me, especially our male readers. You’re not about to come under fire here.
The point I am trying to highlight is the sheer belief that Emmeline held deep within herself. This was that she could make change happen in a society that had always shaped and dominated the view that women had a far lesser role to play than their male counterparts and that their worth as a human being was also far less. This was evident by the fact that at that time, women could not enter many professions in particular the medical and law profession. Even by today’s standards, in the UK especially, female barristers still have a hard time reaching the Bar Council and as far as I am aware, in all of British history right up to the current date, there is not a single female judge sitting in the House of Lords, Britains highest law court.
Can you also believe that it was only in 1991, that the House of Lords finally overturned a legal ruling that had stood for centuries? This was that it was accepted in law that it was legal for a man to rape his wife in marriage. Only in 1991 was this barbaric law finally thrown out and replaced with new legislation that it is indeed now illegal for a husband to assault his wife. Imagine then, back in the early 1900’s when the Edwardian society were still feeling embarrassed by their gaudy Victorian parents, the incredible struggle that Emmeline must have endured despite being arrested and thrown in prison many times over because she believed women should have more rights, especially the simple, most precious right of all, the right to vote.
So here is the question that springs to mind. What kept Emmeline going? What kept this amazing woman strong in the face of such adversity during a time where society had been trained to view women in an extremely poor light? Where did her incredible strength and durability come from? The simple answer was the belief in her own power. The Power of One. Now, the whole point of writing about this most incredible British woman is to demonstrate to both men and women, that no matter what you face, how much you feel trapped, how much you want change or how much you are facing the disapproval of others, you too have that same power within you. If Emmeline could create such change back then at that point in history, you can do the same today.
Emmeline was fortunate because she had parents who were radical and fully in control of what they believed. They owned their own personal right to make the choices and decisions that they felt were right for them and they passed their passionate beliefs and attitudes onto their daughter who as a result turned society up on it’s head. Although she was such a free thinking spirit considering the time in which she lived,a period which had just emerged from a stiff, highly reserved Victorian era, ironically Emmeline cast aside her inspired thinking, which had so victoriously set her apart from the restrictions of the then society, when she refused to speak to her daughter Sylvia for the crime of having an illegitimate child.
Refusing to have anything to do with Sylvia or her grandson, Emmeline died in 1928. How odd that she had set so many women free, orchestrated a complete change of attitude towards women in society, achieved far improved standards of working and living conditions for women, and brought about their equal right to vote. Yet, she was bound up in a belief that it was wrong to have a child out of wedlock to such an extent that she disowned her own daughter and grandchild.
How sad that this gallant, free spirited woman passed from this life on earth without forgiving her own flesh and blood. Even more sad was that she could not see that Sylvia was now a product of a much freer society that Emmeline herself had created. This was clearly a limiting belief that Emmeline held as a boundary to what she found unacceptable and in some ways, it backfired as limiting beliefs so often do mostly because they lead to bad judgements and intolerance. These two points are inextricably linked. Power and acceptance, power and acceptance, power and acceptance.If we say them over and over, they begin to chime harmoniously together.
Emmeline Pankhurst was an incredible woman living in a brief space of time where she made the impossible happen because of her own power (what she chose to believe was right for her) and what she chose to accept (what she believed was either unacceptable or acceptable to her on a personal level.) When she chose to adopt the limiting belief that her daughter was wrong to have a child out of wedlock, her choice cost both her and her daughter great pain so having set so many women free, Emmeline actually trapped herself by believing it was right to ignore her daughter and grandchild.
We can as individuals draw on many helpful lessons from learning about inspiring people like Emmeline Pankhurst. For example, we can ask ourselves: Do I feel powerful enough to change my life What do I feel unable to accept that I am currently accepting? What limiting beliefs am I holding onto? One further point about Emmeline that positively shines out a mile, is that she knew who she was and what she was here to do. How many of us know the same about ourselves today? I know from the many clients I see that when I ask them to tell me who they actually are, they look at me with a blank expression and they struggle to answer the question.
This tells me that they’ve become so bogged down in the details of life, that they know their friends better than themselves and that over time, they have become a complete stranger to who they really are. I chose to write about Emily Pankhurst for this particular article because when I was 12 and studying history at school, I’d been dozing through the lesson when my history teacher threw a book in my direction and yelled at me in front of the whole class, ‘Listen you stupid girl! Because of Emmeline Pankhurst, you are a free woman today! You could at the very least be grateful’! I wasn’t stupid and I wasn’t deliberately ignoring the lesson, I was tired from being up at 4.30am to help at home. But my incredibly irate history teacher, rightly or wrongly in the way she approached it, got my attention and I have admired and been inspired ever since by women like Emmeline Pankhurst. I found a lot of my own strength and power in viewing her as my own role model for standing up for my beliefs and achievements today.
Whether you’re male or female, if you want to bring positive change to your current life or circumstances, the first line of action you need to take is to begin questioning and often change your perception of the way in which you see your own world. This means taking a shrewd and honest view of what you currently believe about yourself, the environment you live in and the role others play in shaping your life. It’s all about the questions you ask inwardly and the dialogue you have with yourself then taking a leap of faith in making choices and decisions that are right for you.