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Who was Emmeline Pankhurst?
Emmeline Pankhurst (born July 14, 1858—June 14, 1928) helped lead the women’s suffrage movement in Great Britain. The long 40-year campaign ultimately achieved success in the year of her death (1928), with full voting rights granted to all British women. Throughout her life as an activist, she and her daughters gained a reputation for their militant methods, leading to numerous imprisonments for damaging property (most notably, smashing windows) and assaulting police officers.
During the 1902 Labour Party conference, Pankhurst reportedly championed the improvement of women’s socioeconomic place in society. She declared that “in order to improve the economic and social condition of women, it is necessary to take immediate steps to secure the granting of suffrage to women on the same terms as it is, or maybe, granted to men.” Her proposal caused much controversy, and the Labour Party elected to push for “adult suffrage” as its party policy.
Historically speaking, women around the world have fought and continue to fight for their rights. Wage discrimination represents just one way some among the privileged class boosted their wealth by exploiting female workers (as well as male workers, but not to the same degree). Some evidence suggests that a gender pay gap currently exists in the U.S. Beyond that debate, people should ideally be paid for the value they deliver to their employer. Regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, and so on.
We at the Zero Theft Movement are dedicated to eliminating the rigged parts of the U.S. economy in order for the healthy, ethical parts to thrive. For good businesses and the many good, hard-working American citizens. Corrupt corporations and political officials might be colluding in order to unethically and sometimes illegally boost their profits by ripping off the public. Read on to learn how Emmeline Pankhurst fought for women’s equality on all fronts, including the economic one.
According to a 2020 study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, the United States spent 16.9% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care, close to double as much as the average OECD country. Why is the US healthcare system so expensive? Find out what our community has discovered about this issue…
“We are here, not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.”
From 1908 “Speech from the Dock”
“No power on earth can govern a human being, however feeble, who withholds his or her consent.”
From 1913 “Freedom or Death” speech
“There is something that Governments care for far more than human life, and that is the security of property, and so it is through the property that we shall strike the enemy. Be militant each in your own way. I incite this meeting to rebellion.”
From 1912, on the Royal Albert Hall stage
The Makings of a Suffragette Leader
Born in Manchester, England, to abolitionist parents, Emmeline was exposed to political activism from a young age. Her mother even took her, at the age of 14, to her first suffrage meeting. Despite her parents’ support of progressive politics, they prioritized the education and advancement of her brothers, expecting her to acquire the homemaking skills required of a housewife. When she was 15, she expectedly rebelled, traveling to Paris on her own to attend the École Normale Supérieure. Goulden returned to Manchester after completing her studies, immediately starting to work as a women’s rights activist.
In 1879, she married Dr. Richard Marsden Pankhurst, a barrister 24 years her senior. He’d authored the first woman suffrage bill in Great Britain as well as the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 and 1882. True to his support of women’s rights, the barrister supported Emmeline’s political work outside of the home.
She spent close to three decades more in Manchester (which came to be known as Suffragette City), raising her four children while still remaining politically active. Emmeline campaigned for her husband during his failed runs for Parliament, and in 1889, founded the Women’s Franchise League (WFL). Unlike other organizations that looked to only win voting rights for single women and windows, the WFL sought to enfranchise all women. It made some headway, securing voting rights for married women in elections to local offices in 1894. Her husband remained supportive of her efforts until his passing in 1898.
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The Women’s Social and Political Union & A Move to London
Emmeline Pankhurst mourned her husband for several years, finding it difficult to cope with the loss of such a major figure in her life. She managed to hold municipal offices in Manchester from 1895, but her focus started drifting away to a new endeavor: the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
She founded the WSPU in 1903. Its famous slogan reads: “Deeds Not Words.” The union grew to prominence after an incident in 1905. Emmeline’s eldest child, Christabel Pankhurst, along with her fellow union leader Annie Kenney, were kicked out of a Liberal Party meeting for demanding a statement about women’s voting rights. The police arrested the duo on technical assault charges. They refused to pay the fines, resulting in prison time. The wide attention garnered by their actions encouraged Emmeline to campaign in a more aggressive or militant manner.
In 1906, Emmeline moved the WSPU’s center of operations to London. The union targeted the Liberal government, seeing it as the number one obstacle to women’s suffrage. At first, WSPU campaigned by demonstrating against party candidates, interrupting cabinet meetings, and buttonholing politicians. While the union had yet to fully adopt the ‘militant’ tactics that would later come to define them, WSPU members were still being arraigned and incarcerated. Pankhurst first experienced being behind bars in 1908 and would return twice more in just two years.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Daily Mail used the term “suffragettes,” as opposed to “suffragists,” in order to distinguish the more combative WSPU members from other women’s rights activists.
Extreme Measures and The ‘Cat and Mouse Act’
The WSPU’s frustrations continued to build as the new decade brought further setbacks. In 1910 and 1911 respectively, two conciliation bills failed to pass, spurring the suffragettes to redouble their protests and eventually employ extreme measures. Vandalizing public art and breaking windows eventually extended to arson (under Christabel’s orders).
Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested while trying to bring a petition to King George V in Buckingham Palace, 1914.
Throughout this period, many suffragettes cycled through prison. In 1909, they introduced hunger strikes, hoping to get released early. While some found the tactic successful, others had to suffer through violent force-feeding. To counteract this practice, the government enacted the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act of 1913 (a.k.a the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act). The new legislation allowed the release of starving suffragettes with mandated recall and resumption of the sentence when the freed prisoner had fully recovered.
In 1913, an incendiary device was triggered in an occupied housing development that was being constructed for the Chancellor. The police arrested Emmeline Pankhurst for inciting the act. With the Cat and Mouse Act in place, she was released and rearrested twelve times in a single year. She, however, served only thirty days of her sentence.
Hunger strikes have proven an effective method of bringing about change. Check out our article on Mahatma Gandhi to see how he (peacefully) fought for India’s independence.
World War Wins and Onwards
With global turmoil on the near horizon, Emmeline and Christabel opted to temporarily call off the Suffragette movement in order to fully support Britain in World War I. The government released all of the imprisoned WSPU members. Emmeline marshalled the Suffragettes, urging them to aid the war effort by filling factory jobs once held by the men fighting on the front.
She knew, without a country of their own, women’s voting rights would be a moot point.
Due to women’s significant contributions during the Great War, the British government enacted the Representation of the People Act of 1918. The legislation granted women partial voting rights. Eligible female voters had to satisfy a property requirement and be 30 or older. Later that year, the government passed a bill allowing women to be elected to parliament.
Emmeline, in her last years, shifted her focus to fighting budding Bolshevism and emerged as a Conservative candidate for an East London constituency. Nevertheless, her health deteriorated, and she passed away in 1928. A few weeks later, the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act of 1928 granted all women the same voting rights as men.
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Lingering Economic Inequality
Earning equal voting rights was a huge step in the right direction, but still only a step.
While many believed World War I and the Equal Franchise Act would significantly improve women’s position and wages in the workplace, not much changed. Granted, female union membership increased from 357,000 in 1914 to over a million by 1918—a 160% boost.
The BBC writes, “…The war did not inflate women’s wages. Employers circumvented wartime equal pay regulations by employing several women to replace one man, or by dividing skilled tasks into several less skilled stages. In these ways, women could be employed at a lower wage and not said to be ‘replacing’ a man directly. By 1931, a working woman’s weekly wage had returned to the pre-war situation of being half the male rate in more industries.”
Furthermore, the article goes on to elaborate on how women were forced out of jobs because wartime contracts ceased to apply postwar. Men, in fear of losing their jobs, railed against women in the workplace as well.
Emmeline Pankhurst, with her controversial, militant tactics, achieved a much-needed feminist revolution. However, even to this day, many women potentially face wage discrimination purely based on their sex. This targeted economic injustice might be contributing to the rigged layer of our economy, allowing companies to unethically profit off of women workers.
These unethical practices that lead to the rigged layer of the U.S. economy, which could amount to trillions of dollars, potentially rip off millions of hardworking, honest citizens, often preventing them from living healthy and secure lives. By aggressively working to eliminate the bad actors, including crony capitalists and lawmakers who have succumbed to regulatory capture, we, the public, will benefit from higher wages across the board, markets that involve genuine competition for our business, and a government that legislates based on our interests rather than moneyed interests.
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Beyond Emmeline Pankhurst…
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