Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960), suffragette, political activist, artist and writer

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In this article, a biographical overview is offered of the life of [Estelle] Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960), suffragette, political activist, artist and writer, in order to provide a context for her 1959 proposal for an Ethiopian women's college, which is published for the first time in this journal. Sylvia, one of five children born in Manchester, England, grew up in a radical household where she not only attended political meetings but was exhorted to work for a more equal society. As a young woman, she trained as an artist but was soon drawn into the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) founded by her mother in 1903 to campaign for the parliamentary vote for women. Sylvia, a socialist feminist, often found herself at odds with the radical feminist, women-centred views of her mother and her elder sister, Christabel, the Chief Organiser of the WSPU and their mother's acknowledged favourite. The tensions between Sylvia and her relatives intensified during the First World War which they supported and she opposed. During the 1920s she became more revolutionary in her politics and in the 1930s increasingly involved in campaigning against fascism, especially in Ethiopia. After Ethiopia was liberated, she went to live there permanently with her son, Richard, in 1956. A crusader all her life, as well as a prolific writer, the publication of her proposal for an Ethiopian women's college reveals yet another aspect of her diverse interests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-87
Number of pages7
JournalGender and Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


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