‘[T]he Children Bobbed Like Corks on the Tide of Adult Life’: The Political Education of the Pankhurst Girls in Late Victorian England

  • June Purvis


This chapter focuses on the upbringing of three girls in Victorian Britain who were members of the Pankhurst family, often called the “first family of British feminism”—Christabel, born in 1880, Sylvia, in 1882, and Adela, in 1885. Their parents, Emmeline and Richard Marsden Pankhurst, were actively involved in the progressive causes of the day, including women’s suffrage and socialism. Their daughters were not isolated from these regularly discussed issues. Further, they participated in political gatherings held within the home and were often taken to political meetings outside it. The commitment to causes into which the girls were socialised stayed with them throughout their adult lives despite their differing journeys.


Unpublished Archival Sources

    National Library of Australia, Canberra

    1. Adela Pankhurst Walsh PapersGoogle Scholar
    2. ‘Adela Pankhurst Walsh, My Mother: An Explanation & Vindication’Google Scholar

    June Purvis Private Collection

    1. Emmeline Pankhurst to Mr. Nodal, 27 November 1902Google Scholar
    2. Mr. Nodal to Emmeline Pankhurst, 27 November 1902Google Scholar
    3. Emmeline Pankhurst to Mr. Nodal, 29 November 1902Google Scholar

Contemporary Printed Sources

  1. Interview with Mrs. Pankhurst, Women’s Herald, 7 February 1891Google Scholar
  2. Mrs. Pankhurst, Labour Leader, 4 July 1896Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Bartley, Paula, Emmeline Pankhurst (London: Routledge, 2002)Google Scholar
  2. Coleman, Verna, Adela Pankhurst: The Wayward Suffragette 1885–1961 (Melbourne University Press, 1966)Google Scholar
  3. Crawford, Elizabeth, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866–1928 (London: UCL Press, 1999)Google Scholar
  4. Dyhouse, Carol, Girls Growing Up in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981)Google Scholar
  5. Holton, Sandra Stanley, ‘Now You See It, Now You Don’t: The Women’s Franchise League and its Place In Contending Narratives Of The Women’s Suffrage Movement’ in Maroula Joannou and June Purvis (eds), The Women’s Suffrage Movement: New Feminist Perspectives (Manchester University Press, 1998), 15–36Google Scholar
  6. Kean, Hilda, ‘Searching for the Past in Present Defeat: The Construction of Historical and Political Identity in British Feminism in the 1902s and 1920s’, Women’s History Review, 3 (1994), 57–80Google Scholar
  7. Mitchell, David, The Fighting Pankhursts (London: Trinity Press, 1967)Google Scholar
  8. Mitchell, David, Queen Christabel: A Biography of Christabel Pankhurst (London: MacDonald & Janes’s, 1977)Google Scholar
  9. Pankhurst, Christabel, Unshackled: The Story of How We Won the Vote (London: Hutchinson, 1959)Google Scholar
  10. Pankhurst, Emmeline, My Own Story (London: Eveleigh Nash, 1914)Google Scholar
  11. Pankhurst, E. Sylvia, The Suffragette Movement: An Intimate Account of Persons and Ideals (London: Longmans, 1931)Google Scholar
  12. Pugh, Martin, The Pankhursts (London: Allen Lane Penguin Press, 2001)Google Scholar
  13. Purvis, June, Emmeline Pankhurst: A Biography (London: Routledge, 2002)Google Scholar
  14. Purvis, June, ‘Emmeline Pankhurst (1858–1928), Suffragette Leader and Single Parent in Edwardian Britain’, Women’s History Review, 20 (2011), 87–101Google Scholar
  15. Purvis, June, ‘The March of the Women: A BBC Drama from 1974 Highlights the Tensions in Writing Feminist History’, History Today, November 2014 (online at
  16. Purvis, June, ‘Christabel Pankhurst—A Conservative Suffragette?’ in Clarisse Berthezѐne and Julie Gottlieb (eds), Man, Women, Gender and the Conservative Party (Manchester University Press, 2017)Google Scholar
  17. Purvis, June, Christabel Pankhurst: A Biography (London: Routledge, 2018).Google Scholar
  18. West, Rebecca, ‘Mrs. Pankhurst’ in The Post Victorians, with an introduction by Very Reverend W. R. Inge (London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1933), 479–500Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • June Purvis
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social Historical and Literary StudiesUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

Personalised recommendations