Extracts of In My Own Words by Emmeline Pankhurst
I don’t think this is a book I ever would have chosen for myself - it was in a goody bag I got from a Ted Talk. Whilst Pankhurst has always had my respect that respect was built on passive knowledge from tweets, movies and my Year 9 History class, I’ve never been drawn to reading about the Suffragette movement. But considering Feb is a short month, I thought I’d this tiny tome would be perfect for my February read*. Here’s what I thought
This isn’t a sexy story to sink into. It’s factual and to the point. It makes sense. With just 150 pages, there’s no room for faffing about when trying to tell the tale of one of the UK’s greatest individuals. However, it did I take me a while to get into the flow of reading it. I imagine the full version gives more colour to her life.
Only 100 Years
There were moments reading this when I had to stop and remember that woman have only had the vote for 100 years. And even then it wasn’t all women. That is the maddest ting!
Pass the baton
Pankhurst writes about being shocked by her own daughters views and determination for women’s suffrage from a young age. Her daughter Sylvia goes on to be arrested multiple times, even going on a 5 week hunger strike where she was force fed. It reminded me that in the fight for equality passing it on to our sisters, brothers, daughters, sons is an absolute must. Patriarchy is shit for everyone, so men need to help tear it up too.
Why Must There Be Riots?
There is a clear change in the movement from peaceful protest to militancy. When women felt like there was no chance of being heard, they turned to militant measures to spread their message. Cabinet Ministers had even taunted women saying they’d never get the vote without employing the same violent tactics that men had used in their fight for suffrage. The stories of rioting, smashing windows, destroying public property are no different to the images that have dominated papers at times in this country over the last 10 years and beyond.
Damn Double Standards
When seeing the double standards written in black and white, I’d challenge anyone not to feel even the smallest bit of rage. The sentences given to women where far heavier than those given to men for far worse crimes. The Liberal party were most unhelpful in the fight for women’s suffrage despite the fact that they’d been fighting for universal male suffrage just a few years before. And to top it off, women were working, earning wages, paying taxes yet still denied the right to help decide how those taxes were spent and how their country was run.
An International Icon
Emmelline traveled to New York on a speaking engagement. The power of this woman’s words were feared so much that she was detained on arrival by Immigration Officers, taken to Ellis Island and finally released after two days on order of the President. Emmeline continued her tour of the US, raising £4500 in donations for the cause along the way. She was then arrested on arrival back in the UK and taken to Holloway prison where she immediately undertook the hunger strike in protest.
The intro to this book is written by MP Jess Phillips who - quite rightly - credits the Suffragette movement for paving the way for her to stand in the The House of Commons. She touches on the critique that Pankhurst has faced in the past for her lack of inclusion and her thoughts on class however says that shouldn’t be used to discredit her achievements. I stand with her on this. If a movement of this kind had happened today I truly believe there would be a different narrative (I hope!). One told by the voices of women from all intersections of society. The fact that Emmeline Pankhurst had views on on status and class (I won’t even begin to imagine her thoughts on race) that just wouldn’t fly today, doesn’t make her work any less important, or unworthy of celebration.
*The joke is, I didn’t finish this book until 16th March. It’s like I set myself up for failure