Wednesday 13 July 2011

"I would rather be a rebel than a slave." Emmeline Pankhurst, happy birthday

Emmeline Pankhurst, mother of the British Suffragette movement, was born 153 years ago this week, on 14th July. To celebrate her legacy Charlotte Newson has created Women Like You, a photomosaic portrait of Pankhurst made up of 10,000 individual images of inspiring women - celebrities, mothers, daughters, politicians, scientists – all sent in by members of the public from all corners of the globe. The artwork took Charlotte two years to complete and stands 3 metres high and 2.5 metres wide.

To mark the date of Pankhurst’s birth on 14 July 1858, Charlotte has turned the Women Like You artwork into a virtual birthday card for women to either sign or post their image onto, creating a personal and very public birthday message to the woman whose legacy transformed the lives of women in this country. The e-card is displayed on Charlotte’s website, featuring the names and photographs of women from all over the world.

Living and working in Manchester, Charlotte Newson has over 20 years’ experience as an artist and has a residency at The Pankhurst Centre, a museum and women’s support space on Nelson Street in Manchester that was the home of Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Sylvia, Christabel and Adela from 1897 – 1907.

Charlotte says:
“The original Women Like You portrait was a hugely moving labour of love for everyone involved and it created a great community of women who wanted to share their stories with the world.  Now, using the internet and social media networks, we’re able to give even more women the opportunity to leave their mark and become part of the Women Like You story with this birthday card tribute to Emmeline Pankhurst.”
To speak to Charlotte about the portrait or the legacy of feminism please contact Emma Beck on 07932 763 015 or email
And in the meantime, enjoy and be fired up by these Pankhurst quotes:

  • Trust in God - she will provide.
  • Deeds not words.
  • Men make the moral code and they expect women to accept it.
  • We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half.
  • Justice and judgment lie often a world apart.
  • We are here, not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.
  • You have two babies very hungry and wanting to be fed. One baby is a patient baby, and waits indefinitely until its mother is ready to feed it. The other baby is an impatient baby and cries lustily, screams and kicks and makes everybody unpleasant until it is fed. Well, we know perfectly well which baby is attended to first. That is the whole history of politics. You have to make more noise than anybody else, you have to make yourself more obtrusive than anybody else, you have to fill all the papers more than anybody else, in fact you have to be there all the time and see that they do not snow you under.
  • I know that women, once convinced that they are doing what is right, that their rebellion is just, will go on, no matter what the difficulties, no matter what the dangers, so long as there is a woman alive to hold up the flag of rebellion. I would rather be a rebel than a slave. I would rather die than submit;and that is the spirit that animates this movement…..I mean to be a voter in the land that gave me birth or they shall kill me, and my challenge to the Government is: kill me or give me my freedom: I shall force you to make that choice.

The Pankhurst timeline:

14 July 1858: Born Emmeline Goulden in Moss Side, Manchester.

1879: Marries Richard Marsden Pankhurst, a lawyer. Richard
had drafted an amendment to the Municipal Franchise
Act of 1869 which allowed unmarried women
householders to vote in local elections. He also wrote
the Married Women’s Property Acts in 1870 and 1882.

1880: Her daughter Christabel is born. She and Emmeline’s
second daughter Sylvia are also destined to become
prominent in the women’s suffrage movement. They
were joined by Adella the youngest daughter in the
early days of the campaign.

1889: Helps found the Women’s Franchise League.

1894: The league wins the right for married women to vote
in elections for local offices, but not for them to vote
for the House of Commons.

1898: Emmeline’s husband dies of a perforated ulcer.

1903: Founds the Women’s Social and Political Union
(WSPU) in Manchester.

1905: Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney are the first
suffragette’s to be jailed. They disrupted a public
meeting at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, speakers
included Winston Churchill.

1906: Emmeline directs WSPU activities from London,
organising marches and campaigns against the
Liberal government. The women are disparaged as
“suffragettes” by the Daily Mail but the movement
proudly adopts the description.

1908-09: She is jailed three times.

1910: Emmeline is refused entry by the police to see Prime
Minister Asquith at the House of Commons to protest
against the dropping of the Conciliation Bill, which
would have given women the vote. Emmeline is
refused entry by the police. The protest develops into
a riot when the women clash with the police and over
100 women are arrested on charges varying from
disturbing the peace to assaulting police officers. The
day comes to be known to the suffragettes as ‘Black

1912: The WSPU becomes militant, with Christabel Pankhurst
directing arson attacks, window smashing, picture
slashing and hunger strikes from Paris, where she
has fled to avoid arrest for conspiracy. Emmeline is
arrested, released and rearrested 12 times within a year,
serving a total of about 30 days jail.

1914: When the First World War breaks out Emmeline and
Christabel call off the suffrage campaign to support
the war effort. During the war Emmeline visits the
United States, Canada and Russia to encourage the
mobilisation of women.

1918: The Representation of People Act is passed in February
giving the vote to women over 30.

1926: Emmeline returns to England and is chosen as the
Conservative candidate for an east London seat, but
her health fails before she can be elected.

1928: She dies on 14 June in London, a few weeks after the
Representation of the People Act establishing voting
equality for men and women is passed.

This text is taken from the press release for the project, full details of which are viewable at Copyright for the text is hers, not mine.