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Suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison memorial issue of the newspaper edited by Christabel Pankhurst
Dame Christabel Harriette Pankhurst, DBE (22 September 1880 – 13 February 1958) was a suffragette born in Manchestermarker, Englandmarker. A co-founder of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), she directed its militant actions from exile in France from 1912 to 1913. In 1914 she became a fervent supporter of the war against Germany. After the war she moved to the United States, where she worked as an evangelist for the Second Adventist movement.

Early life and education

Christabel was the daughter of the lawyer Dr. Richard Pankhurst and suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, and a sister of Sylvia Pankhurst and Adela Pankhurst. She attended, along with her two sisters, Manchester High School for Girlsmarker. Along with her mother Emmeline and others, Christabel co-founded the WSPU in 1903.

Militant suffragette

In 1905, Christabel Pankhurst interrupted a Liberal Party meeting by shouting demands for voting rights for women. She was arrested and along with fellow suffragette Annie Kenney went to prison rather than pay a fine as punishment for their outburst. Their case gained much media interest and the ranks of the WSPU swelled following their trial. Emmeline began to take more militant action for the suffragette cause after her daughter's arrest and was herself imprisoned on many occasions for her principles.

In 1906, Christabel Pankhurst obtained a law degree from the University of Manchestermarker and moved to the London headquarters of the WSPU, where she was appointed its organising secretary. Earning the nickname "Queen of the Mob", Christabel was jailed again in 1907 in Parliament Squaremarker and 1909 after the "Rush Trial" at Bow Streetmarker. Between 1912 and 1913 she lived in Parismarker, Francemarker to escape imprisonment under the terms of the Prisoner's Act better known as the Cat and Mouse Act. The start of World War I compelled Christabel to return to England in 1913, where she was again arrested. Christabel engaged in a hunger strike, ultimately serving only 30 days of a three-year sentence.

She was influential in the WSPUs 'anti-male' phase after the failure of the Conciliation Bills, she wrote a book called The Great Scourge and How to End It on the subject of sexually transmitted diseases and how sexual equality (votes for women) would help the fight against these diseases.[45109]

On 8 September 1914, Christabel re-appeared at the London Opera House, after her long exile, to utter a declaration, not on women's enfranchisement, but on "The German Peril." Christabel toured the country, making recruiting speeches. Her supporters handed the white feather to every young man they encountered wearing civilian dress, and bobbed up at Hyde Park meetings with placards: "Intern Them All." The Suffragette appeared again on 16 April 1915, as a war paper, and on 15 October changed its name to Britannia. There week by week Christabel demanded the military conscription of men, and the industrial conscription of women, "national service" as it was termed. In flamboyant terms she called also for the internment of all people of enemy race, men and women, young and old, found on these shores, and for a more complete and ruthless enforcement of the blockade of enemy and neutral nations. She insisted that this must be "a war of attrition." In her ferocious zeal for relentless prosecution of the War, she demanded the resignation of Sir Edward Grey, Lord Robert Cecil, General Sir William Robertson and Sir Eyre Crowe, whom she considered too mild and dilatory in method. So furious was her attack that, in its over-fervent support of the National War policy, Britannia was many times raided by the police, and experienced greater difficulty in appearing than had befallen The Suffragette. Indeed it was compelled at last to set up its own printing press. A gentler impulse was embodied in an early proposal of Emmeline Pankhurst to set up Women's Social and Political Union Homes for illegitimate girl "war babies," but only five children were adopted. Sterner interests prevailed. Lloyd George, whom Christabel had regarded as the most bitter and dangerous enemy of women, was now the one politician in whom she and Emmeline placed confidence.

When the February 1917 Russian Revolution took place and Kerensky rose to power, Ms. Pankhurst – like many others – journeyed to Russia, in the vain effort to prevent that vast country with its starving multitudes from retiring from the War. Her circuit was like that of Hervé, the French "anti-patriot," as for many years he had called himself, and of whom she had been an ardent admirer in her youth. Christabel received the commendation of many war enthusiasts.

After some British women were granted the right to vote at the end of World War I, Christabel stood in the 1918 general election as a Women's Party candidate, in alliance with the Lloyd George/Conservative Coalition in the Smethwick constituencymarker. She was narrowly defeated, losing by only 775 votes to the Labour Party candidate John Davison.

Leaving her native England in 1921, she moved to the United Statesmarker where she eventually became an evangelist with Plymouth Brethren links and became a prominent member of Second Adventist movement. Marshall, Morgan and Scott published her works on subjects related to her prophetic outlook, which took its character from John Nelson Darby's perspectives. Christabel lectured and wrote books on the Second Coming. Christabel returned to Britain in the 1930s. She was appointed a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1936. At the start of the Second World War she again left for the USA where she lived until her death in Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker in 1958 at the age of 77, and was buried in the Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Santa Monicamarker, Californiamarker.

Further reading

  • Christabel Pankhurst, Pressing Problems of the Closing Age (Morgan & Scott Ltd., 1924).
  • Christabel Pankhurst, The World's Unrest: Visions of the Dawn (Morgan & Scott Ltd., 1926).
  • David Mitchell, Queen Christabel (MacDonald and Jane's Publisher Ltd., 1977) ISBN 0-354-04152-5
  • Barbara Castle, Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst (Penguin Books, 1987) ISBN 978-0-14-008761-1.

See also

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