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The value of Emmeline Pankhurst's Freedom or Death, 1913
Transcript of The value of Emmeline Pankhurst's Freedom or Death, 1913
British Political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement which women to win the right to vote
She was widely criticized for her militant tactics however her work is recognized as a crucial element in achieving women's suffrage in Britain.
Born into a family with a tradition of radical politics and was the eldest daughter of 10
1879 - married Richard Pankhurst, a lawyer and supporter of the women's suffrage movement.
1894 - became a Poor Law Guardian. This involved regular visits to Chorlton Workhouse where she was deeply shocked by the misery and suffering of the inmates.
She was particularly concerned about the way women and children were treated and it reinforced her belief that the women's suffrage movement was the only way to improve the situation.
1889 - she founded the Women's Franchise League, which fought to allow married women to vote in local elections. In October 1903, she helped found the more militant Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) - an organisation that gained much notoriety for its activities and whose members were the first to be christened 'suffragettes'. Freedom or Death This speech was said in Hartford, Connecticut, on a fundraising tour of the United States that took place late in 1913. Prankhurst traveled there with a warrant out on her head, a frequent occurrence for her at the time. In traveling and speaking there, she was not advocating for the rights of women in Britain nor America, rather to explain why the movement had turned to more aggressive and violent means to achieve its ends, as she felt that it was pointless to continue a peaceful and what she considered passive and weak approach. This is reflected through Prankhurst's frank statement during the speech that"I do not look either very like a soldier or very like a convict, and yet I am both." Her speech also effectively conveyed the injustice that plagued women at the time, making it one of the greatest and most influential speeches of the 20th century The significance of the speech freedom and death is extreme historically as it is often considered the start of the western feminist movement's urgency to advocate for its rights and had a large role in women gaining the right to vote and have a proper place in society. This statement accurately reflects the historical importance of the speech within literature. Pankhurst uses stark, irreconcilable contrasts to emphasise the suffragettes’ seriousness. Binary concepts like men/women, salvation/damnation, freedom/imprisonment and life/death play an important role in her speech. Significance and importance of Freedom and Death historically and as a piece of literature British politicians, press and public were astonished by the demonstrations, window smashing, arson and hunger strikes of the suffragettes.
Like many suffragettes, Emmeline was arrested on numerous occasions over the next few years and went on hunger strike herself, resulting in violent force-feeding
1913 - in response to the wave of hunger strikes, the government passed what became known as the 'Cat and Mouse' Act. Hunger striking prisoners were released until they grew strong again, and then re-arrested.
This period of militancy was ended abruptly on the outbreak of war in 1914, when Emmeline turned her energies to supporting the war effort.
1918 - the Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30.
Emmeline died on 14 June 1928, shortly after women were granted equal voting rights with men (at 21). "I am here as a soldier who has temporarily left the field of battle in order to explain - it seems strange it should have to be explained - what civil war is like when civil war is waged by women. I am not only here as a soldier temporarily absent from the field at battle; I am here - and that, I think, is the strangest part of my coming - I am here as a person who, according to the law courts of my country, it has been decided, is of no value to the community at all: and I am adjudged because of my life to be a dangerous person, under sentence of penal servitude in a convict prison. So you see there is some special interest in hearing so unusual a person address you. I dare say, in the minds of many of you - you will perhaps forgive me this personal touch - that I do not look either very like a soldier or very like a convict, and yet I am both.." This section of the speech reflects the direct and captivating oratory style of Pankhurst.
From this first paragraph it is evident that the subject of her speech involves women and their place in society.
She uses pronouns like "you" and "I" to identify with the audience and make the speech seem more personal and reflective
She uses the idea of a soldier and the military to demonstrate the difficulty she (and other women) are facing in the 'fight' for equal rights
This is an example of her 'militant tactics' for which she was widely criticized for