Emmeline Pankhurst was a key figure in the UK women’s suffrage movement in the early twentieth century. Founder of the WSPU [the Women’s Suffrage and Political Union], dedicated to ‘deeds not words’, it used action to gain the attention of political decision-makers. Windows were smashed, police officers assaulted. Pankhurst was a controversial figure, imprisoned repeatedly where they staged hunger strikes and were force fed.What is not so widely known is Pankhurst’s support for women during the Great War, and the plight of war babies born to single women and fathers who were away fighting. Pankhurst established an adoption home at Campden Hill in West London. She was criticised at the time for supporting the parents of children born out of wedlock, but Pankhurst declared the welfare of the children was her only concern. Pankhurst saw the poverty of single mothers in her work as a Poor Law Guardian, part of the work of the board of guardians, the authorities which administered the Poor Law in the UK from 1835 to 1930.
Pankhurst herself went on to adopt four children, who she renamed Kathleen King, Flora Mary Gordon, Joan Pembridge and Elizabeth Tudor. They lived in Holland Park, London. She famously commented when asked how, at the age of 57 and with no steady income, she could take on the burden of bringing up four more children, Pankhurst said: ‘My dear, I wonder I didn’t take forty.’
‘Suffragette’ by Emmeline Pankhurst BUY
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