‘Sylvia Pankhurst’ ~ Empress story by Calista Kazuko
On this day 105 years ago, a young Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square at the march in support for women’s suffrage. She was no stranger to being punished for campaigning, having been arrested eight times during 1913-14 and force-fed each time. It’s hard to imagine and this dedication to the cause shows an inspirational will and bravery.
The daughter of the renowned Emmeline and Richard Pankhurst, Sylvia and her mother did not always see eye to eye. An avid promoter of peace, she was mortified by her mother and sister Christabel’s support of military conscription and was fiercely opposed to the First World War, sparking backlash and her ultimate expulsion from the Women’s Social and Political Union. After having her son Richard at 45 and refusing to marry his dad, Sylvia and her mother sadly broke ties.
Like all the best people - ;) - Sylvia was an artist at the Manchester School of Art and in 1900 she won a scholarship to London’s Royal College of Art, applying her artistic talents on behalf of the WSPU, devising its logo and various leaflets, banners, posters and decorations.
Consequently, Sylvia created so many achievements, too many to share, but to name a few!…
She and Amy Bull founded the East London Federation of the WSPU and
when her opposing political views caused her expulsion from the WSPU, she founded the East London Federation of Suffragettes in 1914. She also founded the newspaper of the WSF, ‘Women’s Dreadnought’, later the ‘Worker’s Dreadnought’. The federation campaigned against the First World War and defended the interests of women in the poorer parts of London offering food, jobs and legal advice centres. In 1915, Sylvia gave her enthusiastic support to the International Women’s Peace Congress, held at The Hague and the WSF hosted the inaugural meeting of the Communist Party (BSTI). Sylvia subsequently dedicated much work in support of ‘left communism’ and anti-fascism.
In 1932 Sylvia was instrumental in the establishment of the Socialist Workers' National Health Council. She responded to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia by publishing The New Times and Ethiopia News from 1936, raised funds for Ethiopia’s first teaching hospital, and wrote extensively on Ethiopian art and culture. Pankhurst died in Addis Ababa in 1960, aged 78, and received a full state funeral at which Haile Selassie named her "an honorary Ethiopian".
A true EMPRESS, Sylvia’s strength, forward thinking, conviction to the core and unshakeable moral compass have made history and paved the way for modern women. We thank you Sylvia and hope to continue shining the torch for women around the world today. #BalanceforBetter
“I know we will create a society where there are no rich or poor, no people without work or beauty in their lives, where money itself will disappear, where we shall all be brothers and sisters, where every one will have enough.” ~ Sylvia Pankhurst (1882 – 1960)
ps. It felt like being back at school writing this, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! Obviously this is just scratching the surface of the extraordinary Sylvia Pankhurst and I implore you to read more as it’s quite inspirational!