July 14, 2011 - Emmeline Pankhurst Day

– U.K.

She fought long and hard for women's right to vote in the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland).

Emmeline Pankhurst, born on this day in 1858,* went to her first suffragette meetings when she was still a child. (Both of her parents were political agitators.) And universal suffrage (votes for men and women over age 21) was not achieved in the U.K. until the year of Pankhurst's death, 1928. So working for women's votes took up almost the entire span of her long life!

There was a surprising amount of violence toward and even by suffragettes. I read about women protestors having rocks in their kid gloves, wearing proper gowns but carrying hammers, going on hunger strikes and even smashing windows. I read about women demonstrators being beaten, imprisoned, and force-fed. Pankhurst's radical strategies brought a lot of attention to the suffragettes' cause—but not all of the attention was the good kind!

When the suffragettes sing in the movie Mary Poppins, "Take heart, for Mrs. Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again," they are referring to the fact that Pankhurst was jailed numerous times during protests and political activism, including 12 times in one year! 
    * By the way, although almost everybody, including Emmeline herself, reports Pankhurst's birthday on July 14, her birth certificate claims that she was born the next day, July 15, 1858. Still, the commemoration follows the traditional date.

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