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Sylvia Pankhurst: shunned, snubbed, now to be honoured at last

March 6, 2016

The suffragette’s socialist ideals caused a rift with her mother and sister.

The Pankhursts

Photograph: Heritage Images/Getty Images

In life, they became personally and politically estranged. And decades after their deaths, the three Pankhurst women who did so much to win universal suffrage continue to be divided.

While Emmeline Pankhurst, the founder of the suffragette movement, and her eldest daughter Christabel are commemorated by a statue and plaque at the entrance to Victoria Tower Gardens on the south-west corner of the houses of parliament, no such honour has been bestowed on Sylvia, who broke with her family over her opposition to the first world war and pursuit of socialist ideals.

The House of Lords – an institution Pankhurst vowed to tear down in a coming revolution – has over the years repeatedly blocked proposals for a memorial near parliament, despite strong support from figures including the former Commons speaker Betty Boothroyd, and the granting of planning permission by Westminster council.

But while there seems little hope of a statue of the radical pioneer joining her mother and sister in Westminster, an unlikely partnership is seeking to honour her on a plot a few miles east.

A bronze model of the statue has already been made by the late sculptor Ian Walters, who was also responsible for the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square.

(See the maquette on the results page.)

Clerkenwell has been chosen as an alternative to Westminster as it was in the east of London that Sylvia sought to unite the women’s movement with that of the working class, after being expelled from her mother’s Women’s Social and Political Union and forming the East London Federation of Suffragettes.

Read more on The Guardian