Sylvia Pankhurst .com - an Interactive Learning Resource
Font size: A A A


Sylvia Pankhurst
Sylvia, circa 1912. The portcullis brooch she designed herself is seen at the knot of her tie which was probably in the Suffragette colours of purple, white and green

As a Suffragette, Sylvia was imprisoned and force-fed more than any other campaigner. She organised spectacular demonstrations, rallies and marches all over Britain publicising the Women's Social and Political Union, and trying to persuade the Government to give women the vote. She designed flags, banners and gifts for sale, decorated halls and meeting rooms and spoke to huge audiences. Sometimes 16,000 women came to hear her.

By 1906, Sylvia was working full-time for the WSPU. She was imprisoned many times for her involvement and endured weeks and months of hunger, thirst and sleep strikes in Holloway Prison.

When her sister Christabel ordered WSPU members to use violence, Sylvia was distressed. Tactics such as setting fire to buildings, destroying golf courses, smashing windows of shops and politicians’ homes, and destroying works of art. She broke away from the WSPU and set up the East London Federation of Suffragettes, a new campaigning group in the East End of London built on her own principles and which men were welcome to join .

Sylvia lectured on woman's suffrage in the United States in 1911, in Scandinavia in 1913, and in central Europe in 1914. However, she believed in universal suffrage – wanting to do more in the world than empower women – and once that campaign was well on the way to success, felt her own duties to society should reach further.

→ More in this 'Sylvia and Suffrage' sub-section:
Sylvia & Suffrage: Introduction, Sylvia the Suffragette, Images of the Suffrage Movement and Perceptions of Women