In the United Kingdom, the mere mention of Helen Pankhurst’s surname can spark spontaneous applause—at the very least, nods of recognition and smiles of solidarity. Pankhurst’s great-grandmother Emmeline Pankhurst and grandmother Sylvia Pankhurst were leaders of the British suffragette movement, who, after years of witnessing peaceful campaigning without any results, decided that more drastic measures were needed. Their efforts which included arson, hunger strikes and parliamentary protest missions—radical even by today’s standards—helped win the vote for British women over 30 in 1918, and for all women of voting age a decade later.
In Australia, on the other side of the pond, women had already been granted the right to vote in 1902: the second country, after New Zealand, to grant women’s suffrage at a national level, and the first country to allow women to stand for Parliament. Indigenous Australian women, however, were denied the vote until 1962. This fact speaks to the unequal ways in which different groups of women have benefitted from the feminist movement since its conception, a stark reality that energises Helen Pankhurst to continue her family’s legacy through her work as a women’s rights activist, writer and senior advisor to CARE International.
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