on 4 July 2012
For most of us, Sylvia Pankhurst will always be thought of as a Suffragette, the daughter of Emmeline and sister of Christabel Pankhurst but Shirley Harrison's well-researched book shows that she was so much more than a one-issue woman - unlike the other Pankhursts. She formed clinics for women and children when the men were fighting in the First World War and set up feeding stations for them which saved hundreds of lives. I was fascinated to read that she established a toy factory to help women out of poverty and that her newspaper campaigned for better rights for all, not just women.
Neglected by her mother - but not as much as her tragic brother or adopted siblings - she fought to establish her own identity and opposed the violent actions advocated by her cultish sister, Christabel. As they faded from front page headlines, Sylvia fought for Indian rights under British rule, shared a stage with Lenin, wrote poetry to Keir Hardie (her much, much older lover) and, finally, fought for Ethiopian independence - where she was buried with a state funeral in 1960.
The book shows that Sylvia wasn't always the easiest person but she was the best of the Pankhursts and it left me wanting to know more about the other people featured in it, including the generous and much-abused Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence who seemed to have been the mother that Sylvia deserved, a kind, caring woman.
It's a fantastic book and contains a lot about the Suffragettes and their history but much more than that and I learnt a lot in what proved a surprisingly colourful read. Sylvia was quite a woman - or 'that scarlet woman' as her mother called her!
on 18 May 2012
While most school children are familiar with Emmeline Pankhurst's name and connect it with the women's suffrage movement, few know much if anything about her daughter Sylvia. Yet as Shirley Harrison's excellent book reveals, Sylvia far outshone her mother in terms of commitment to her cause. Passionate, stubborn and principled, she was prepared to endure repeated imprisonment and the appalling mistreatment that ensued in pursuit of her goal, unlike her mother who ran away to Paris when the going got tough.
Emmeline and her daughter Christabel believed that nothing mattered so much as the single issue of women's suffrage, whereas Sylvia saw denying women the right to vote as part of a much bigger picture of social injustice. She cared deeply about the plight of the poor and worked tirelessly to ease conditions for the poverty-stricken women of London's East End. Later she turned her considerable campaigning ability to the issue of Ethiopian independence. She was an enormously courageous woman, bold in her beliefs and unafraid to broadcast them even when doing so earned her the disapprobation of those she loved.
For far too long Sylvia Pankhurst's name has been overshadowed by her mother and older sister but perhaps Shirley Harrison's well-researched and extremely readable book will help bring her the recognition she undoubtedly deserves.
on 28 January 2013
I found this book extremely interesting and informative. Like many I thought of Sylvia Pankhurst solely involved with the fight for Women's Vote,and certainly not in the other campaigning aspects that she undertook through her life,particularly her fight for Ethiopia. This book was well written and did not bog down the reader with too much complicated detail. In spite of the fact that Womens Vote only took up 10 years of her life,the majority of the book is devoted to this subject.The relationship between her parents and sisters was very revealing and also a fact that I was not aware of.
The descriptions of living conditions in the East End were thought provoking, and also what appears the reactionary views of those who wanted to dfeny women the vote seems incredible n this day and age. Nothing much changes in the class structure,The landed gentry still get richer and more prosperous,whilst the poor get poorer,still pretty abysmal working conditions for the worker.
A very good and informative read