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News > School News > Helen Pankhurst, the great granddaughter of Emeline Pankhurst- famous and inspirational suffragette.

Helen Pankhurst, the great granddaughter of Emeline Pankhurst- famous and inspirational suffragette.

13 Dec 2022
School News

On 14th September 2022, I had the opportunity to attend a talk at Heathfield School by Helen Pankhurst, the great granddaughter of Emeline Pankhurst- famous and inspirational suffragette. 
Mrs Pankhurst began by addressing an outline of her talk, consisting of speaking about the suffragette movement and her female line of feminists (as well as her male family members’ contributions) during the time, then moving to the current state of female affairs and concluded with the future of women and what we must do to forward improvements. 
I found the first section of Mrs Pankhurst’s lecture particularly poignant as I was able to somewhat begin to understand the personal lives of women involved in paving the way for the freedoms we perhaps take for granted today. Mrs Pankhurst allowed me, and the other audience members, to reflect upon the difficulties and challenges the women encountered in order to fight for their- and our- rights. Mrs Pankhurst spoke about her family which evidently consists of a strong female line. Mrs Pankhurst’s great-grandmother, Emeline Pankhurst had three daughters: Christobel (the strategist and committed to the militancy), Silvia (the artist behind many suffragette campaigns) and Adela (the youngest daughter and activist of the WSPU) and Mrs Pankhurst told us with pride about the character of these three strong, yet very different sisters. 
This segment of Mrs Pankhurst’s lecture concluded with a selection of questions from the audience and the main contribution that stood out to me was the question: “did the male figures of the Pankhurst family contribute at all to the movement?” To this, Mrs Pankhurst explained that men did help a great deal in aiding the women’s movement. In fact, Pankhurst’s great-grandfather, Richard Pankhurst drafted the amendment which included women in the Municipal Corporation Bill. The following year he was responsible for drafting the first bill for the enfranchisement of women ever presented to Parliament. 

Next, Mrs Pankhurst spoke about the current state of women’s affairs and discussed the work she has being doing. Mrs Pankhurst is an international women’s rights activist, author of ‘Deeds not Words” (which I am currently reading following her talk and would highly recommend) and she is currently CARE International's senior advisor working in the UK and Ethiopia- she is a rather impressive and thoroughly inspiring woman. 
Although this segment was mainly dominated by questions and audience participation, I took away a feeling of empowerment and dedication- perhaps I, too, could make a difference.

The final topic of Mrs Pankhurst’s lecture consisted of the future of women’s rights and how far we think we’ve come. This section was my favourite as it really made me think. Mrs Pankhurst asked us to choose a number from 1-5 on our hands as to how far along the scale we believe a variation of areas of women’s lives have improved, or in fact gone backwards. 
We began with politics and the average score of the audience was between 3 and 4 out of 5. Mrs Pankhurst agreed with this and personally scored politics a 3/5. 
Next, we were asked to rate women’s economic opportunities. The average score was roughly 2s and 3s and this was also supported by Mrs Pankhurst’s score of 3/5. 
We were then asked to rate safety for women. This topic was a rather melancholy one as I can say with certainty that women in the 21st century do not feel safe in society- the audience unanimously agreed with this sentiment, scoring 0s and 1s with some even asking to rate minus numbers. The rating by Mrs Pankhurst for safety is indeed a 1/5 and in her book, she solemnly states that “almost all women at one point or another experience abuse, and for some it is a prison they cannot escape from”. 
The last topic for rating was social and cultural spaces women occupy and thankfully this issue has a slightly more uplifting response. The audience members rates 3s and 4s, to which Mrs Pankhurst agreed- herself scoring a 3.5/5. 

I was truly inspired and empowered by Helen Pankhurst’s talk about women’s rights. I was left with two main takeaways: a strong sense of respect for the suffragettes who fought for the freedoms women have today and a resolution to be dedicated to doing my part for women in this society. The second is that we are not doing enough in this day and age to honour the hard work of these women- we must work together and on ourselves to reflect upon the small steps we can take to make a difference because a difference is most currently needed. In the words of Noor Al-Saffar- aged 14: “The Pankhurst legacy means I’m not afraid to have ambitions, not stupid to dream, not deluded for wanting to transform the world in which we live; they taught me if they can make it possible, I can make it possible”. 

 

Maya D, Year 12

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