Emmeline Pankhurst on Women’s Suffrage

The predominant middle class value system of the 19th and early 20th centuries articulated an image of the “ideal woman.” This ideal woman was to be quiet and reserved, obedient and dependent on her husband, and the manager of the domestic sphere (the household). While much of the middle class, women included, aspired to exhibit these ideals, there were many who were dissatisfied with the prevailing notions of women’s role in society.   One critic in particular, Emmeline Pankhurst, in the document titled Militant Suffragist, 1913, rejected many of society’s conceptions concerning women. She was a staunch advocate of women’s suffrage. She tried to accomplish her goals by any means possible, including the use of violence. She argued that women were disserving of this inalienable right because, similarly to men, they have lived “useful lives,” and are “animated with the highest motives.” Pankhurst was radical because of her implementation of militant tactics, but she was also radical for the mere fact that she was active in the public sphere. She was not afraid to voice her opinions publicly, and rejected the notion that women’s only place in society was within the domestic sphere.