13:38, October 04 50 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-04 13:38:03
A different class of suffragette

June Purvis paints a very admirable picture of Emmeline Pankhurst (A suffragist statue in Parliament Square would write Emmeline Pankhurst out of history, theguardian.com, 27 September) as a colourful campaigner. But she was also an extremist who supported planting bombs and committing acts of arson. When anyone disagreed with her she simply tended to throw them out of the movement, including her own daughter, Sylvia Pankhurst, who believed working-class women should have the right to vote but her middle-class mother wasn’t interested and they fell out over it. So much for diversity.

Emmeline Pankhurst caused too much hoo-ha to possibly be forgotten but as a radical whom society frowned upon, she made the issue of women’s votes frowned upon, and the only helpful thing she ever did was put a stop to her militant “deeds not words” tactics after the outbreak of the first world war.

It was women doing their bit for the country by working in so many vital positions previously held by men, that helped rebuild support for suffragists’ cause. It was Millicent Fawcett and the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) pointing out the contribution they had made that was instrumental in achieving the Representation of the People Act in 1918. Not Pankhurst chaining herself to railings, heckling politicians and inflicting damage to property.

It’s about time more people heard of Millicent Fawcett as she proves you don’t need to value or use militancy in a cause. Peaceful patience is key.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

As the instigator of the campaign for a statue of “Leicester’s suffragette”, Alice Hawkins, it strikes me that we should recognise the diversity of opinion and experience there was within the struggle for the vote; a diversity and experience as rich as that which resides in our democracy today.

Fawcett, the Pankhursts and Hawkins – a working-class shoe-machinist who rose to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Pankhursts – saw an injustice and did something about it: they should all be recognised and respected for that.

Surely, though, in the name of equality, working-class female freedom fighters such as Hawkins deserve greater recognition during the centenary of the Representation of the People Act than the already well-known (and much more affluent) leaders of the suffragists and suffragettes. I am therefore very pleased that the seven-foot statue of her has been fully funded (by Jamie Lewis, who sensitively converted the factory where she worked into student accommodation), nearly completed (by the sculptor Sean Hedges-Quinn) and will be unveiled in time for next February’s anniversary of the act’s royal assent.

Cllr Adam Clarke (Labour, Aylestone)

Assistant city mayor, Leicester

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