To Emmeline Pankhurst, activist, campaigner, leader of the British women's suffrage movement. From Pippa Plant.

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Dear Emmeline,

An activist, a revolutionary, a hero. Your contributions to women’s suffrage brazed through the Parliamentary walls of injustice and paved the way for millions of women today to be considered as equals.

As a child, your parents prioritised your brothers’ education over your own – but you did not let this hold you back. You studied in Paris before returning to Manchester, your birthplace – where you married a man whose views on feminism were as passionate as your own. You would have accepted nothing less.

In 1889, you founded the Women’s Franchise League, which fought to allow married women to vote in local elections. It seemed like a stronger strategy was required; by October 1903, you had founded the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union. It’s slogan was ‘deeds not words’, and your organisation’s work fully lived up to its motto. You smashed through windows (and glass ceilings), tied yourself to railings and marched through the streets f London, all with a venomous fury that demanded the attention of all. There were no limits to what you were prepared to do to gain the vote for women.

You were arrested on numerous occasions, your face pushed to the floor. You were degraded and humiliated - but you fought back. Your weapon of hunger strikes was your main defence. Violent force feeding did not deter you; in fact it made you more determined. How difficult it must have been to strike and commit yourself to political activism when you knew that your five children at home would miss you desperately. You sacrificed you own family life and all of its magical moments – seeing your children blow out candles on their birthday cake, spending Christmas together as a family, watching your youngest’s first steps – because you knew there was a more universal cause to fight for. You sacrificed your own life and freedom so that other women might have theirs.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, you turned your energies to supporting the war effort, which finally convinced politicians that women deserved the vote, which they had been fighting so long to have. You managed to see women gain partial suffrage in 1918 (when married women over 30 were given the vote), but it’s such a shame that you passed away before you saw that women gained full voting rights in 1928. You were not around to see the incredible legacy of your work – but we want you to know that it exists. As 21st century women we are still fighting for equality in many reals of society, and will be for the next 100 years, your actions were truly pivotal as the catalyst for equality. You deserve to be revered with the greatest.

Yours sincerely,

P Plant

About Emmeline Pankhurst

activist, campaigner, leader of the British women's suffrage movement. Born 1858, died 1928. More information about Emmeline Pankhurst.

Received June 9, 2016.
Published September 1, 2016.