Emmeline Pankhurst - Family and Birth

Family and Birth

Emmeline Goulden was born on July 15, 1858 in the Manchester suburb of Moss Side. Although her birth certificate states otherwise, she believed that her birthday was a day earlier, on Bastille Day. Most biographies, including those written by her daughters, repeat this claim. Feeling a kinship with the female revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille, she said in 1908: "I have always thought that the fact that I was born on that day had some kind of influence over my life." The reason for the discrepancy remains unclear.

The family into which she was born had been steeped in political agitation for generations. Her mother, Sophia Jane Craine, was descended from the Manx people of the Isle of Man and counted among her ancestors men accused of social unrest and slander. Pankhurst's Manx heritage was a possible source of her political consciousness, especially since the Isle of Man was the first country to grant women the right to vote in national elections, in 1881. Her father, Robert Goulden, came from a modest Manchester merchant family with its own background of political activity. His mother worked with the Anti-Corn Law League, and Pankhurst's paternal grandfather was present at the Peterloo Massacre, when cavalry charged and broke up a crowd demanding parliamentary reform.

Although their first son died at the age of two, Pankhurst's parents had ten other children; she was the eldest of five daughters. Soon after her birth the family moved to Seedley, on the outskirts of Salford, where her father had co-founded a small business. Goulden was active in local politics, serving for several years on the Salford Town Council. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of dramatic organisations including the Manchester Athenaeum and the Dramatic Reading Society. He owned a theatre in Salford for several years, where he played the leads in several plays by William Shakespeare. Pankhurst absorbed an appreciation of drama and theatrics from her father, which she used later in social activism.

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