In DiscoverIdeas

The new BBC documentary Emmeline Pankhurst: The Making of a Militant reveals the incredible story of Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst. The guide below will tell you how to discover Emmeline’s Manchester for yourself.

Pankhurst Centre

Start your discovery of Emmeline’s Manchester at her former home at 62 Nelson Street. Now the Pankhurst Centre, this pair of Victorian Villas was home to Pankhurst and her three daughters between 1898 and 1907.

Emmeline moved here following the death of her husband, pro-suffragist barrister Dr Richard Pankhurst. The house was the birthplace of the Suffragette movement, with the first meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) held in Emmeline’s parlour – which is preserved today in the museum.

Alongside being open to the public as a museum, the centre also shares its space with Manchester Women’s Aid, who work to support women in need across Greater Manchester.

In the 100th centenary year of votes for women, the Pankhurst Centre has plans for significant renovations to ensure this part of radical Manchester history is preserved for future generations.

  • The Pankhurst Centre, 60-62 Nelson Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester M13 9WP. Open 10 am - 4 pm every Thursday; and 1 pm – 4 pm every 2nd and 4th Sunday.

Central Library

Visit the archives of Manchester’s Central Library, where you can explore the stories of suffragette heroes, including Lily Maxwell; a widow and shop owner who cast her vote some 50 years before women were given the legal right to do so.

At the time in 1867, taxpaying men could vote, but women could not. Lily Maxwell was added to the electoral roll in error, giving her entitlement to vote in the General Election. With this knowledge, and encouragement from prominent Manchester suffragist Lydia Becker, Lily marched down to the polling booth and placed her vote for Liberal MP Jacob Bright.

With little choice but to accept the vote, the returning office counted Lilly’s ballot, making her the first woman in British history to vote before the landmark law changed in 1918.

The historic moment created newspaper headlines and some 5,000 women attempted to register to vote, leading to a court case that declared the loophole illegal while also outlawing women’s suffrage. 

Discover more about Lily’s story and what working life would have been like for both women and men at the Archives on the ground floor of the Central Library, which includes historic films from the British Film Institute.

  • St Peter’s Square, Manchester M2 5PD. Closed Sundays.

Free Trade Hall – Radisson Edwardian Blu Hotel

Manchester’s Free Trade Hall was built in 1853 to commemorate the repeal of the Corn Laws and stood as a significant political symbol in the city. The building itself was situated on the site of the Peterloo Massacre, where 60,000 peaceful protestors were charged by the cavalry resulting, in around 15 deaths and over 700 injuries.

It was at the Free Trade Hall in 1905 that another political act of rebellion took place, when Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney interrupted a political meeting attended by political candidate Winston Churchill, and protested about votes for women, resulting in their arrest for public disorder. They refused to allow anyone to pay bail on their behalf, including an attempt by future Prime Minister Churchill, who feared his reputation would be damaged if he did not free the women. His offer was refused and the women spent time in prison.

This simple act sparked the militant attitude of the suffragettes’ motto, “Deeds Not Words”, and drew support for the cause.

Today the building is the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester hotel, its radical history preserved in the original façade and nods to its past throughout its rooms.

  • Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester hotel (Free Trade Hall), Peter Street, Manchester, M2 5GP

Chetham’s Library

The oldest public library in the English-speaking world, Chetham’s was founded in 1653 and holds over 100,000 books, ephemera and important political items in its collection.

It was the meeting place of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who together wrote The Communist Manifesto, an ideology subscribed to by Sylvia Pankhurst, the middle child of Emmeline and Dr Richard Pankhurst.

As a prominent communist, Sylvia toured Europe and even visited Lenin’s Russia to criticise his rules on censorship and free speech. After being expelled from the Communist Party, she established the rival Communist Workers’ Party, which eventually folded in 1924.

Written texts by Sylvia Pankhurst are held at the library, whilst the writing desk of Marx and Engels is on display, an object that may have inspired Sylvia to become involved in communism while living in radical Manchester.

  • Chetham’s Library, Long Millgate, Manchester M3 1SB. Open Mon – Fri, 10 am – 12 pm and 13.30 – 14.30, entry only at every hour.

People’s History Museum

Documenting the struggle for democracy and equality in the UK, this national museum houses a collection of original suffragette items including sashes, placards and personal telegrams from Emmeline Pankhurst.

Following the recent discovery of an original Manchester Women’s Social and Political Union suffragette banner in a charity shop, the museum has carefully restored and preserved the item which will be part of a display of political banners used by the suffragettes at political rallies.

The museum documents the fight for democracy, starting with the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, and explores Manchester’s history in socialism, communism, the Cooperative Movement and recent history such as the Miners’ Strike and LGBT equality.

  • People’s History Museum, Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3ER. Open 10 am to 5 pm, and open for Radical Lates until 9pm on every second Thursday.

Museum of Science and Industry

After Emmeline’s husband died, she had to find work to support herself and her three daughters. Working as a Poor Law Guardian and Registrar of Births and Deaths, Emmeline saw the effects of industrial Manchester on women and children living in the city.

At the time, cotton was King in Manchester, and the majority of hard labour jobs came from cotton spinning mills. Many of the suffragettes held jobs in these places as laundry workers to make ends meet.

The Museum of Science & Industry explores Manchester’s industrial past and displays powerful steam machines that would have been invented by powerful men, who used their influence and wealth in the city. It’s clear to see that Emmeline was inspired to fight against this chauvinism and wanted to change the role of women in society.  

  • Liverpool Road, Manchester, M3 4FP. 10 am – 5 pm every day.

St Peter’s Square (where the Our Emmeline statue will be unveiled on December 14, 2018)

With just one female statue in Manchester (Queen Victoria in Piccadilly Gardens), the Womanchester Statue campaign reached out to the public for support for a second female statue to be erected in the city. Given a choice of 20 inspirational women from 300 years of Manchester history, the public voted for Emmeline Pankhurst to be immortalised in bronze.

Sculptor Hazel Reeves was commissioned to create the statue after her design “Rise up, women” showing Emmeline on a chair, in passionate speech, was chosen by judges. It is set to be unveiled in St Peter’s Square in December 2018, marking the 100th anniversary of some women voting for the first time in a General Election.

The statue will point towards the former Free Trade Hall, symbolising the place where the suffragettes started their militant activism in Manchester and will stand as a permanent reminder of the legacy of Pankhurst and her suffragettes.

Emmeline Pankhurst: The Making of a Militant can be seen on Friday June 8th 2018 on BBC One North West,  and SKY Channel 958, and on Monday 18th June on BBC Four. It will also be available on iPlayer from Saturday 9th June.




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