Emmeline Pankhurst - Marriage and Family

Marriage and Family

In the autumn of 1878, at the age of 20, Emmeline Goulden met and began a courtship with Richard Pankhurst, a barrister who had advocated women's suffrage – and other causes, including freedom of speech and education reform – for years. Richard, 44 years old when they met, had earlier resolved to remain a bachelor in order to better serve the public. Their mutual affection was powerful, but the couple's happiness was diminished by the death of his mother the following year. Sophia Jane Goulden chastised her daughter for "throwing herself" at Richard and urged her without success to exhibit more aloofness. Emmeline suggested to Richard that they avoid the legal formalities of marriage by entering into a free union; he objected on the grounds that she would be excluded from political life as an unmarried woman. He noted that his colleague Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy had faced social condemnation before she formalised her marriage to Ben Elmy. Emmeline Goulden agreed, and they were wed in Eccles on 18 December 1879.

During the 1880s, living at the Goulden cottage with her parents in Seedley, Emmeline Pankhurst tended to her husband and children, but still devoted time to political activities. Although she gave birth to five children in ten years, both she and Richard believed that she should not be "a household machine." Thus a servant was hired to help with the children as Pankhurst involved herself with the Women's Suffrage Society. Their daughter Christabel was born on 22 October 1880, less than a year after the wedding. Pankhurst gave birth to another daughter, Estelle Sylvia, in 1882 and their son Francis Henry, nicknamed Frank, in 1884. Soon afterwards Richard Pankhurst left the Liberal Party after a wealthy group of pro-imperialist members took power. He began expressing more radical socialist views and argued a case in court against several wealthy businessmen. These actions roused Robert Goulden's ire and the mood in the house became tense. In 1885 the Pankhursts moved to Chorlton-on-Medlock, and their daughter Adela was born. They moved to London the following year, where Richard ran unsuccessfully for election as a Member of Parliament and Pankhurst opened a small fabric shop called Emerson and Company.

In 1888 Francis developed diphtheria and died on 11 September. Overwhelmed with grief, Pankhurst commissioned two portraits of the dead boy but was unable to look at them and hid them in a bedroom cupboard. The family concluded that a faulty drainage system in the back of their house had caused their son's illness. Pankhurst blamed the poor conditions of the neighbourhood, and the family moved to a more affluent middle-class neighbourhood at Russell Square. She was soon pregnant once more and declared that the child was "Frank coming again." She gave birth to a son on 7 July 1889 and named him Henry Francis in honour of his deceased brother.

Pankhurst made their Russell Square home into a centre for grieving sisters, attracting activists of many types. She took pleasure in decorating the house – especially with furnishings from Asia – and clothing the family in tasteful apparel. Her daughter Sylvia later wrote: "Beauty and appropriateness in her dress and household appointments seemed to her at all times an indispensable setting to public work." The Pankhursts hosted a variety of guests including U.S. abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, Indian MP Dadabhai Naoroji, socialist activists Herbert Burrows and Annie Besant, and French anarchist Louise Michel.

Read more about this topic:  Emmeline Pankhurst

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