The Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee

2022 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

Saturday 13 August 2022, 7pm at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield

Sylvia Pankhurst on War

Rachel Holmes, author of Sylvia Pankhurst, Natural Born Rebel

See details and the flyer here


The statue: where we are today...

23 March 2022

Sylvia Pankhurst
Socialist, internationalist, anti-racist
The idea for a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst was born in 1988 (gasp!) when one of the now four-woman committee was near the House of Lords by the memorial to Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. No mention of Sylvia…
Sylvia is the one who truly frightens the horses.
Expelled from the Women’s Social and Political Union by her mother and sister, Sylvia was working in the impoverished East End of London with women and children, with trade unions, and, the final straw, supporting Irish socialists James Connolly and Jim Larkin and the workers of the Dublin lock out.
Lifelong socialist Ian Walters was the sculptor of our choice. Ian died in 2006 and was described by Tony Benn as “one of the greatest sculptors of his day”. The maquette was unveiled in 2000. It is beautiful and like so much of his work, full of movement and purpose.
In 2001 we gained planning permission from Westminster Council for our chosen site on College Green opposite the Houses of Parliament but we also needed the permission of both the Commons and the Lords. The Commons granted its permission but in 2003 and again in 2004 the Lords’ smoke and mirrors Administration & Works Committee refused, its chairman saying “Sylvia Pankhurst had no connection with the Lords which could justify the choice of such a prominent site”.
Time passed…
In 2015 our Patron Lord Chris Smith approached Islington Council leader Richard Watts and political support was there for a site on Clerkenwell Green. The Green was the start of London’s first May Day march in 1890, is home to the Marx Memorial Library and is dubbed “the headquarters of republicanism, revolution and ultra-non-conformity” – an excellent resonance with Sylvia.
The Council was intending to refurbish Clerkenwell Green – turning it from almost a car park to a mostly pedestrianised community space. Consultations were carried out and plans were laid. Constant reductions in the government portion of the Council’s budget meant hard times but we were moving forward. Covid arrived and everything went into slo-mo, but now we zoom forward!
The first phase of the refurbishment of the Green will start shortly – Sylvia is part of that first phase. Planning applications are in process for Sylvia and the Green and we hope to unveil Sylvia Pankhurst in late 2022 or in 2023.
During the many years of this campaign we have organised an Annual Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture in the workers’ stately home – Wortley Hall.
During the many years of this campaign we have lost some of our strongest supporters – including three Patrons: Richard Pankhurst (Sylvia’s son), and trade unionists Baroness Brenda Dean, and Rodney Bickerstaffe. But our current Patrons fight on: Labour Peers Lord Chris Smith and Baroness Margaret Prosser, Helen Pankhurst (Sylvia’s granddaughter), Maxine Peake (actress).
 The Committee is older than it was also. But the end is in sight and we are happy to say that the statue is cast (by the Morris Singer Foundry) and waiting to be patinated. This statue will truly be a people’s statue – our sponsors are individuals, trade unions, and trade union branches, along with a couple of very welcome local authority grants. The unveiling will be a festival of everything that Sylvia stood for. All sponsors will be invited to attend and to bring their banners!
Never give up!
Philippa Clark, Mary David, Megan Dobney, Barbara Switzer


Drama: Sylvia vs the fascists

Sunday 19 September 2021 3pm at the Bread & Roses pub theatre, Clapham, London



2021 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

Saturday 7 August 2021 at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield

Sylvia Pankhurst: women, race and class - then and now

Professor Mary Davis, historian and writer the flyer with further details is here


Rodney Bickerstaffe

Three years ago Rodney Bickerstaffe died. Rodney was an active Patron of our campaign and remembered by the Committee with great fondness and admiration. We have contributed to the website dedicated to the memory of this lovely man.


2020 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2020 lecture was cancelled (due to the pandemic).


Sylvia Pankhurst charged with sedition after Cresswell Labour Party speech

"Eckington and the First World War" by Elaine Chambers describes the impact of WW1 on this Derbyshire town and includes coverage of the speech by Sylvia that led to her prosecution at Renishaw Magistrates Court in 1918.


2019 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2019 lecture took place on Saturday 10 August at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield

Red Clyde - a presentation on the Battle of George Square

Jennifer McCarey, chair of Glasgow Trades Council - flyer here


Hello to supporters and potential supporters

The campaign for a Statue to Sylvia continues to make real progress.
The Committee of four has been attending many events relating to the Centenary Year of limited votes for women. Our Professor, Mary Davis, author – “Sylvia Pankhurst – A life in Radical Politics” has delivered lectures. Barbara spoke to a meeting in the House of Commons on International Women’s Day, Megan delivered a talk at the University of the 3rd Age, spoke at one of the events around the unveiling of the statue of Emmeline in Manchester, me in Newcastle on IWD. Just a taster of the activity – there is more, also everyone attending trade union conferences, political gatherings, trying to be better at social media etc.
The annual Lecture at Wortley Hall by Dr Sheila Hanlon – Cycling for Suffragism – was very well attended by 90 people. It was a hugely interesting and very entertaining lecture. We also welcomed Pedal4Progress who cycled from the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester to Wortley Hall to coincide with the Lecture and raise funds for us. This included Clarion cyclists from London and Sisters who managed 20km and said it was more painful than childbirth! So we have some really dedicated supporters helping us.
Megan and Barbara visited the Foundry to see Sylvia being cast. They both said it was incredible – a feat of engineering and artistry. The artist, a young man, was hugely inspired by the story of Sylvia. And so she is almost ready. The statue needs “finishing”, patinating and then is “good to go”. So far we have met the necessary bills.


We continue fund raising to cover the cost of transportation to the site, insurance and maintenance. We have applied for funds to assist with these costs, the costs of the launch event, and to make Sylvia a “talking” statue. This is a simple process where a passerby inputs a code into their mobile phone (on a plaque by the statue) and is called back with Sylvia’s story. A great way to inform footfall through Clerkenwell Green about the causes for which Sylvia campaigned and remain relevant today.
Early in the year we attended an exhibition in Charing Cross Library – Sylvia and Silvio – at which Megan spoke. This was organised by the ANPI (Italian anti fascist organization) in London in which Sylvia and her partner Silvio were active in the early 1920s. It was an interesting exhibition – very informative. What was striking was the introduction by Alfio who made a film about their anti fascist activities. The library building, tucked between the Garrick Theatre and pub, was the HQ of Italian fascists in London until 1940 who wanted to be as close as possible to Westminster… it housed a restaurant and lecture rooms. Alfio said we were “reclaiming” the building by housing this exhibition. It is going to be held in the Working Class Movement Library in Manchester next year and is very well worth a visit.

Above: Sylvia and Silvio; below: Helen, Megan, Alfio

Thanks to patron Maxine Peake, on International Women’s Day at the Old Vic a bucket collection raised £1,400 after she spoke to the audience about supporting the statue campaign. Maxine introduced us to the wonderful women at The Old Vic whose production about Sylvia was amazing! Hugely entertaining, enlivening and informative. Best of all a young diverse audience (and cast) who entered into the spirit of this Hip Hop production by their vocal participation!
Greatly helped by patron Chris Smith, always a “first responder” to pleas for help, Tom Watson’s office put us “out there” on their social media which immediately resulted in many very welcome on line donations.
We want to acknowledge our Patron Helen Pankhurst – who must be exhausted! Everywhere, at everything this year – we hope you have a good rest planned Helen. Always gracious as well as tireless, Thank You for keeping Sylvia in the frame alongside your speaking out for all women who fought for the right to vote.
A shout out too to the Marx Memorial Library, to whom our statue will be “bustling” towards full of busyness, for their support and encouragement and also Emily Thornberry who makes time for us despite other… err… rather pressing problems as Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Finally we were very sad to hear of the death of our patron Brenda Dean. Brenda fought tirelessly for 10 years in the Lords to try and obtain their permission to erect the statue on College Green. Westminster Council approved us, the House of Commons also – but never the Lords! As the Guardian reported (Sylvia and phone tapping) Sylvia was obviously never going to find favour with the establishment! We have submitted a letter in reply trying to raise our profile – not as yet published...
The £90,000 we have raised has been from individuals giving us a £1 to those who are able to donate more – every single gift is valued. Trade union branches have been generous. In terms of “grants” we have received £13,000. £10,000 from the Corporation of the City of London and £3,000 from Islington whose support and commitment to raising the statue is invaluable – thank you Chris.
This therefore will be a “People’s” statue. We are so appreciative of everyone’s active support as for the campaign. When we thank donors we also exhort them to “Spread the Word”. Please mention our Sylvia in every conversation at every opportunity – so that she will be raised to inspire future generations about the need for vigilance to protect democracy and fight for fairness for all people.
Best wishes for the festive season and for Peace and Progress in 2019.
Barbara, Mary, Megan and Phil – The Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee


The Women's Hall Garden Party

Philippa and Megan staffed a stall at the Women's Hall Garden Party in September 2018

The event celebrated the creation of a community garden commemorating Sylvia Pankhurst and the East London Federation of Suffragettes on the site of the original Women's Hall

The mural was painted March 2018 on the side wall of the Lord Morpeth pub by Jerome Davenport



Sponsored cycle rides to support the statue thanks to all!!! £1,471 raised!

Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 August 2018 - 3 rides all ending at Wortley Hall

Ride 20, 29 or 62km, or sponsor: details from



2018 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2018 lecture took place on Saturday 11 August at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield

Sheila Hanlon: Cycling to Suffrage

Here is a link to the really interesting blog by Sheila based on her presentation!

In this illustrated lecture, Dr Sheila Hanlon traced the history and politics of women’s cycling from Victorian times to today. The talk focussed on the integration of the bicycle into the Edwardian suffrage campaign as a form of transportation, protest and spectacle. Sylvia Pankhurst, an avid cyclist, was at the centre of the narrative from her early days learning to ride with the Clarion Cycling Club to the adaptation of the bicycle into the battle for the vote for women and beyond. We rode along with lady cyclists from the golden age of the tricycle to the everyday use of safety bicycles with a few surprises along the way.

Dr Sheila Hanlon is an historian specialising in the history of women’s cycling, particularly as it intersects gender politics from Victorian times to today. She completed her PhD at York University, Toronto and held a Vera Douie Research Fellowship at The Women’s Library. Her research has been featured on BBC radio and TV, and published in journals and magazines. Much of her work focuses on the importance of bicycles to the Edwardian suffrage campaign. She also brings history to modern cycling advocacy, working with a number of organisations such as CyclingUK.

Sponsored by the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee, the National Assembly of Women, and Wortley Hall. The lecture was be followed by light refreshments and further conversation


Emily, Susanne, Matthew - all at the Library!

We were delighted (Friday 16 March 2018) to meet with campaign donors Susanne Levin and Matthew Bell along with local MP and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry. Also pictured is the full Committee and the Marx Memorial Library archivist

Barbara, Matthew, Susanne, Emily, Megan, Philippa, Mary, Meirian

2017 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2017 lecture took place on Saturday 12 August at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield and was a conversation with Helen Pankhurst

Deeds not Words: changes in women's lives since 1918

Helen, Sylvia's granddaughter, shared and invited reflections on how far we have got since 1918, based on a book she is writing for the centenary of the vote. Helen works for CARE International and is a Visiting Professor at LSE and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Sponsored by the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee, the National Assembly of Women, and Wortley Hall.


The Ethiopian Ambassador visits the MML

Megan Dobney from the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee writes: Today (Thursday 18 May 2017) I was delighted to meet Dr Hailemichael Afework Aberra, the Ethiopian Ambassador in London, at the Marx Memorial Library on Clerkenwell Green. I was able to update the Ambassador on the campaign for the statue of Sylvia (she was given a state funeral in Addis Ababa in recognition of her constant support of the Abyssinian/Ethiopian people in their fight against Italian fascism; her son Richard also lived in Addis Ababa until his death in February this year). MML Archivist Meirian Jump welcomed the Ambassador to the Library and showed him round the facilities and collections there.

The picture shows (left to right) Meirian Jump (MML Archivist), Ambassador Dr Hailemichael Afework Aberra, Megan Dobney (Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee), Gail Warden (Press Office of the Embassy of Ethiopia) with the maquette of the statue that is on display in the Library's reading room


Sylvia Pankhurst at London's May Day 2017

The London May Day march assembled in Clerkenwell Green as usual, and the Marx Memorial Library offered us the opportunity to speak to the trade unionists gathering there. I can tell you it rained... but not for long!


Obituary: Professor Richard Pankhurst

Professor Richard Pankhurst died on 16 February 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

He was the founder and first Director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies of Addis Ababa University, and for 10 years the Librarian of the Royal Asiatic Society in London. He had lived, together with his wife Rita, in Ethiopia for five decades. Professor Pankhurst devoted the greater part of his life to the study of Ethiopian history and culture, and wrote extensively on the subject (29 books and countless articles). When Richard Pankhurst was awarded the OBE ‘for services to Ethiopian studies’, he wrote to the Queen urging the repatriation to Ethiopia of six Ethiopian manuscripts looted by British troops from Emperor Theodore’s fortress of Magdala in Ethiopia in 1868. They are currently held in the Royal Library in Windsor Castle.

Unsurprisingly there has been an outpouring of grief in his adopted country resulting in widespread calls in Ethiopia for Richard to be accorded a State funeral. Only one other westerner has been given such an honour; namely his mother Sylvia Pankhurst. Both she and Richard gave invaluable support and solidarity to Ethiopia.
Richard Pankhurst was a founder patron of the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee – a committee formed to campaign for a public memorial in the form of a statue to be erected in honour of his mother, Sylvia, who had campaigned since 1935 against the Italian fascist invasion of Ethiopia and edited the New Times and Ethiopia News for 20 years. Richard was unstinting in his support and enthusiasm for a memorial to his mother that is also intended to mark her many other crusades: for the suffrage, against World War One, for working class women, against racism, imperialism and fascism. Richard too supported these causes as is clearly shown in the seminal book he wrote about his mother Sylvia Pankhurst, Artist and Crusader: An Intimate Portrait.

We know he would be pleased to learn that we now have the support of Islington Council and the Corporation of London to raise the statue of Sylvia on Clerkenwell Green, London. We are sure he would agree that Clerkenwell Green is a very fitting place given its long standing radical traditions. London’s first May Day march, organised by the London Trades Councils, set off from the Green in 1890 and still does. It was the site of Chartist gatherings, rallies supporting Irish freedom and the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Clerkenwell Green is also home to the Marx Memorial Library, a meeting place for many progressive causes in the nineteenth century. In 1933 it was established as a library and Workers’ School against the background of the barbarism of fascists burning books in Germany in 1933. It houses the archives of the International Brigade and the Bernal Peace collection. This is where the book of donors to the statue will be kept.

Written by Professor Mary Davis on behalf of the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee


Maquette installed at Marx Memorial Library

On Thursday 18 August we held a small event to welcome the maquette of Ian Walters' statue to the Reading Room of the Marx Memorial Library on Clerkenwell Green.

above: Helen Bagley (Just Giving), Helen Pankhurst (Sylvia's granddaughter), Kat Fletcher (Mayor of Islington), Rodney Bickerstaffe (campaign Patron)

below: Helen with Ian's daughter Jess and the maquette


New Patron

We are delighted to say that actor Maxine Peake has joined Rodney Bickerstaffe, Richard Pankhurst, Brenda Dean, Margaret Prosser and Chris Smith as a Patron of the campaign for a statue for Sylvia


2016 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2016 lecture took place on Saturday 13 August at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield and was given by Ruth Taillon the text is available here

Socialism, Feminism and the Women of 1916

Ruth Taillon is author of the 1996 book When History Was Made: the Women of 1916, a book that broke new ground at the time by identifying approximately 200 women who had taken an active part in the Easter Rising and highlighting their contribution to the events of Easter week. She edited Marie Mulholland’s book,The Politics and Relationships of Dr Kathleen Lynn for Woodfield Press and was also a contributing editor (Women and the State) to the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing Vol. IV. Ruth was a founder of the Mary Ann McCracken Historical Society, that throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s organised a range of activities to promote interest in women’s history and their contribution to Irish political, social, economic and cultural life. During this period, Ruth also worked with and for a number of community-based women’s groups and the trade union movement as both researcher and activist. She continues her interest in gender, equality, and peace and conflict issues and lectures occasionally on women’s history. Ruth is Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies, which promotes and supports cross-border cooperation – on the island of Ireland and beyond. She is currently a member of the Irish Government’s Oversight Group for the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. 



2015 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2015 lecture took place at 7pm on Friday 14 August at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield

"Sylvia Pankhurst and opposition to World War One" by Mary Davis

Mary Davis FRSA is Visiting Professor of Labour History at Royal Holloway University of London. She has written, broadcast and lectured widely on women's history, labour history, imperialism and racism.

The Sylvia Pankhurst Trust organised an unveiling ceremony for the re-furbished Anti Air War Memorial in Woodford Green on 24 October 2014

Many congratulations to them and to those who participated (Susan Homewood, Katherine Connelly, Iain Duncan Smith, Linda Perham and Bruce Kent [pictured below])


2014 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2014 lecture took place on Friday 15 August at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield

The Militant Suffragette as a Militant Artist was given by Hester Reeve, multi-disciplinary artist (pictured below left, with collaborator Olivia Plender)

The text of the lecture is available here


2013 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2013 lecture took place on Friday 16 August at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield

Women and the 1913 Dublin Lockout: British solidarity, Sylvia's part in that including her visit to Ireland in 1914 was given by Theresa Moriarty, labour historian (pictured below)


2012 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2012 lecture took place on Friday 17 August at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield.

Divide and Rule - the oldest tactic in the book was given by Sarah Veale.

Download a pdf of the lecture here.


House of Lords activities

First of all, the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee is delighted to welcome The Rt Hon The Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde (Brenda Dean) as a Patron of our campaign to erect a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst, and equally, to thank her for organising a showing of the WORLDwrite film on the life of Sylvia to supporters at the House of Lords on 6 December 2011.

Amongst those attending was Baron Bach of Lutterworth (Willie Bach) - not only a supporter of the campaign, but his great-aunt, Emmeline Goulden, married into the Pankhurst family and became one of the leaders of the suffragette campaign that led to women being given the vote. Before the film he shared some of his memories and memorabilia of his family's involvement in that vital campaign.

Parliamentary bodies have a key role to play in granting permission for the statue to be placed on the Committee's chosen site on College Green and we also warmly welcome the engagement of key cross-party support in the House of Lords evidenced by this event.

pictured: Brenda Dean with Committee member Barbara Switzer


2011 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2011 lecture took place on Friday 12 August at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield.

"Suffrage campaigners on the ocean wave" was given by Dr Jo Stanley FRHistS.

Download a pdf of the slides Jo's lecture was based on here.


Professor Pankhurst's address on the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Pankhurst's death

2010 is the 50th anniversary of Sylvia's death in Addis Ababa. You can download Richard Pankhurst's address, given in Addis Ababa on the 17 October 2010 here.


2010 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2010 lecture took place on Friday 13 August 2010 at Wortley Hall, Sheffield.

Irene Cockroft, exhibition curator, author and lecturer, spoke on How the Vote was Won illustrated with wonderful slides.

Once more the lecture room was full - you can download and read the lecture here.

Above: Irene Cockroft with Richard and Rita Pankhurst after the lecture at Wortley Hall


2009 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2009 lecture took place on Friday 21 August 2009 at Wortley Hall, Sheffield.

Dr Jacqueline Mulhallen's lecture was titled "Artist and Political Campaigner" and was illustrated with slides from her personal collection, showing Sylvia's early works of women workers from the last century (brief biography of Dr Mullhallen here).

The lecture room was full and Jacqueline's talk was extremely well received by all present. You can download an abbreviated version of Jacqueline's lecture here.

Above: Dr Jacqueline Mulhallen with Richard and Rita Pankhurst after the lecture at Wortley Hall


2008 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2008 lecture took place on Friday 15 August 2008 at Wortley Hall, Sheffield.

Professor Mary Davis spoke on Women Workers and the Suffrage Campaign: class politics vs gender politics?

Above: Rita and Richard Pankhurst, with Professor Mary Davis, after the lecture at Wortley Hall

You can read the lecture here


2007 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2007 lecture (17 August 2007, Wortley Hall, Sheffield) was given by Professor Sheila Rowbotham, author.

Entitled "Sex, Sun and Socialism - (near Sheffield): Edward Carpenter 1844 to 1929", you can download the flyer here.


2006 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

The 2006 lecture (18 August 2006) was given by Rita Pankhurst, academic and campaigner.

Entitled "Sylvia Pankhurst and Ethiopia", you can download it here, and click here for a brief biography of Rita.


inspired by Baroness Dean!

Gina Holbrook from Bury heard Brenda Dean on Radio 4 talking about our campaign for a lasting memorial to Sylvia Pankhurst and was inspired to enter a competition... Property developer Urban Splash were seeking names for its 3 Towers development in Manchester - Gina suggested Emmeline, Sylvia and Christabel and won!


thankyou Brenda, for your continued work!

On Thursday 16 March 2006 in the House of Lords debate to celebrate women's achievements, Brenda Dean expressed her frustration at the lack of progress on gaining the House of Lords' Administration and Works Committee's approval for the use of our chosen site (below is an extract from Hansard)

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: One aspect of visibility which concerns me is this House. Women are not terribly visible in pictures or as statues, or in any manifestation other than the women who work in this Chamber. As many of your Lordships will know, I am interested in, and committed to, the Sylvia Pankhurst statue. I am puzzled as to why a difficulty surrounds a statue of a woman who in my view was the key suffragette-it was not her mother, nor her sister, Christabel. Sylvia was the kind of woman who, had she been in this Chamber today, would have spoken up for the radical policies. Yes, she supported votes for women, but she supported also the full empowerment of women. She lived and worked in the East End. She believed in women having the right to choose and in women's education. She was not going to pack her bags and go when women won the vote. The statue is quite an issue for me, which neither I nor many Members of this House will let go. I am sure that we will find a successful outcome. This House usually gets there through the usual channels.


The 2005 Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture

Friday 30 September, 7.30pm, at Wortley Hall, Sheffield


Given by Gloria Mills, President of the TUC, and a Vice-President of the National Assembly of Women

Sponsored by the National Assembly of Women, the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee and Wortley Hall. The lecture will be followed by light refreshments

If you require accommodation overnight at Wortley Hall contact them on 0114 288 2100, or

download the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture 2004 (Friday 17 September 2004 at Wortley Hall, Sheffield)


given by Richard Pankhurst, Professor of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University.

sponsored by the National Assembly of Women, the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee and Wortley Hall. The lecture will be followed by light refreshments.

Download the text of Professor Pankhurst's lecture here (8pp pdf file)


Campaign update

Maquette viewing - House of Lords, 27 June

The silence over the past few months doesn't mean that there has been no activity!

Brenda Dean and some of her colleagues in the House of Lords have been carrying the flag and beavering away to gain support to place the statue on College Green.

On 21 May they met with Valerie Amos, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords and received a sympathetic response. She suggested that we hold a viewing in the House. The event was publicised widely amongst peers and was a very successful and encouraging afternoon. Among those who attended were Valerie Amos, James Crathorne (secretary of the Arts and Heritage group), Peter Goldsmith (Attorney General), Genista McIntosh, Betty Lockwood (first chair of the EOC), Ruth Rendell (author), and Robert Winston.

When parliament returns after the summer recess, Brenda and her colleagues will be assessing the situation and decide the next move.


OBE for Professor Pankhurst

Professor Richard Pankhurst has been awarded the OBE "for services to Ethiopian studies". He has written to the Queen urging the repatriation to Ethiopia of six Ethiopian manuscripts looted by British troops from Emperor Theodore's fortress of Magdala in Ethiopia in 1868. They are currently held in the Royal Library in Windsor Castle.


in the Lords...

House of Lords 9 March 2004 7.44pm

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: …

Having said that, I must raise one negative point. It is not something that the Minister or the Government can deal with; it relates to the House's Administration Committee. I am ashamed to say that that committee has refused to agree to the erection of a statue dedicated to Sylvia Pankhurst. There is one for her mother and one for her sister. The committee in the House of Commons has agreed, and Westminster City Council has given planning permission. It is being held up by the Administration Committee of this House. Members, myself included, have written letters on the subject and have been told, "No", but I do not think that we will leave the issue there.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: ….

I add my voice to that of my noble friend Lady Dean, who made a point about the House of Lords Administration and Works Committee having refused to allow a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst on Abingdon College Green. As a mere Minister, I could not possibly comment on that committee, but I suggest that it is perhaps mistaken in thinking that Mrs Pankhurst has no connection with the House of Lords that would justify such a prominent site. Quite the contrary, I add my support to those questioning this decision. Sylvia Pankhurst was one of the most prominent suffragettes and clearly deserves this recognition which is long overdue.

in the Commons...

House of Commons 4 March 2004 5.10pm

Vera Baird (Redcar) (Lab)…

Finally on the occasion of this momentous day for women which we celebrate as women Members of Parliament, I shall briefly mention earlier women who had to contend with much more than being excluded from a game of snooker and who fought, argued and, in at least one case, died so that we could have our equal rights and, of particular resonance to us, the right to vote. There is a current issue about Sylvia Pankhurst. She was a socialist feminist who, during the campaign for women's suffrage at the turn of the century, not only braved the horrors of hunger striking and forced feeding, but founded and built a remarkable women's organisation in the east end of London. The group, the East London Federation of Suffragettes, was composed of working-class women. The suffragette movement was almost exclusively middle class apart from this. They campaigned for the vote and for social change until 1920, sticking with it long after the Women's Social and Political Union run by Sylvia's mother Emmeline and her sister Christabel had pulled out of the fight.

There is much more to be said about Sylvia Pankhurst-not least, harking back to what my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) said, that she went to live in Ethiopia. She worked hard there and championed Ethiopia when it was conquered by fascist Italy. She was invited to live there and when she died she was given a state funeral. I had the privilege of visiting her grave twice last year and the year before when I went to Ethiopia to talk to the judiciary about how to deal with domestic violence-the Ethiopian judiciary know a lot more than the Conservative party about that-and then to talk to the police about domestic violence. What wonderful women I met there, and how they all remember what Sylvia Pankhurst did for them.

Returning home, I believe that Sylvia's strategy, based as it was on an alliance between class and gender, did far more to win the vote for all women than the more elitist and, ultimately, probably diversionary politics of her mother and sister. It is thus richly ironic that the British state has chosen to honour Emmeline and Christabel for their contribution to women's suffrage with a statue to the former and a plaque to the latter outside Parliament while completely ignoring Sylvia's role. She would not especially have liked such a memorial but, as a symbol of the unsung heroism of thousands of working-class women who fought for the franchise and for socialism, some kind of recognition in the form of a statue is long overdue and would at long last help to correct the historical record. I alert women to the position of the campaign for a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst on College green. Westminster city council has given planning permission for that wonderful statue, and Members may know that the Accommodation and Works Committee of the House of Commons, which has some responsibility in such matters, has agreed. However, the Administration and Works Committee of the House of Lords has turned down the proposal, saying that if a statue were to be put in such a key position there would have to be a competition. However, the site has been empty for a long time and no one has applied. The Committee also claimed that the statue does not have artistic stature, yet its members have never seen the statue. Apparently, the decision falls to the House of Commons Commission. What better tribute could there be than for our debate to galvanise the Commission into allowing that long overdue memorial to be raised? I hope that all Members will do everything that they can to press and lobby the Commission to ensure that the campaign comes to a successful conclusion. I venture to say to my sisters that if history has to repeat itself and we are obliged to chain ourselves to railings, I hope they will all be there.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con)…

…I was interested in her fight over the statue; it was the first time that I had heard of the problem. I cannot speak for my hon. Friends, but I can speak for myself and it is about time that Sylvia Pankhurst was recognised. It is appalling that we have hit the buffers on the issue, so if there is any cross-party action that I can take with my sisters-I cannot believe that I said that-on the other side of the House, I am willing to join in, in the spirit of us against the rest of them…

The Deputy Minister for Women and Equality (Jacqui Smith)…

The original international women's day slogan-bread and roses-symbolises the demands for economic security and a better quality of life. Those aspirations still form the basis of our actions today. I am pleased to say that we have come a long way since then thanks to the determination and courage of women in the past. Women in the UK have had the vote for almost 80 years, although I have to say that I agree with everything that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) said about Sylvia Pankhurst.

The logic of the Mad House…

A decision by the House of Lords Administration & Works Committee objecting to the raising of a statue to commemorate Sylvia Pankhurst on Abingdon College Green has infuriated the statue's many supporters.

The Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee's chosen site, for which they have planning permission from Westminster City Council, is nearer the Lords than the Commons and the Lords committee has refused permission saying "Sylvia Pankhurst had no connection with the Lords which could justify the choice of such a prominent site"!

"She was the most important individual in women's emancipation" says former Speaker of the House of Commons Betty Boothroyd. "If Pankhurst can't have a statue on College Green, why not take up the spirit of the suffragettes and chain one to the railings outside parliament?"

Lord Peston said "to put forward that she had no direct connection with their Lordships' House as the reason for rejecting the proposal is to confirm precisely why she among others fought as they did. It is an insult to their memory to argue in this way and brings no credit to us".

Commenting on the tradition that the Lords committee decides on statutory if it is closer to them than to the Commons, Megan Dobney of the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee said:

"This is tradition gone mad. For centuries it was traditional that women didn't have the vote. For an unelected House to be able to refuse this site for a woman who was instrumental in gaining the vote for half the population is the logic of the Mad House."

Anne Picking MP has tabled an Early Day Motion supporting the site:

That this House supports the Accommodation and Works Committee decision to site the Sylvia Pankhurst Statue on Abingdon College Green.

Linda Perham MP said "I have always considered College Green as being opposite the whole Palace complex - it's just that it is nearer the House of Lords end, and as a woman MP I know that if Sylvia and her mother and sisters and their predecessors had not fought so tirelessly for the equality of the franchise, I and 252 other women MPs and women peers might not have been able to take our places in the Houses of Parliament".


11 November 2003: House of Lords Administration & Works Committee refused approval to the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee's plans for a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst on Abingdon College Green.

10 December 2003: House of Commons Accommodation & Works Committee approved the site and referred the matter back to the House of Lords Administration & Works Committee for reconsideration.

27 January 2004: House of Lords Administration & Works Committee again withheld its consent. Early Day Motion available on The EDM has, at the time of writing, 88 signatures.

The East Lothian question...

Wednesday 7 January 2004, Prime Minister's Question Time:

Anne Picking (East Lothian) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Accommodation and Works Committee has asked the equivalent Committee in the other place to reconsider where to put the statue of Sylvia Pankhurst? Although I understand that that is a House matter, does he agree that Sylvia Pankhurst did wonderful things to help the struggles of working-class women? As we honour men who run about a field kicking balls, can we not commemorate someone who had some?

The Prime Minister: I am looking for the Sylvia Pankhurst brief, but it does not appear to be with me. We have nothing against men kicking balls around a field - we are completely in favour of them, especially when they win the world cup for England.

Mr Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): That was rugby.

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman might have noticed that they kick the ball on the rugby field as well. Anything that happens to a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst is matter for the House. Obviously, I should like her to be honoured; she was a tremendous champion of women's rights and women's suffrage-but the details should not be for me but for the House authorities.

thankyou Anne!

watch the video - try

Hurray! Commons Sense!!!!!

The House of Lords Accommodation & Works Committee, on 11th November 2003, took the disappointing decision to oppose the siting of our statue on College Green (for which we have planning permission from Westminster City Council).

We immediately wrote to all sponsors asking that they lobby its Commons equivalent, the Administration & Works Committee, which met on 10th December 2003.

The letters poured in and we are so delighted to be able to say that they voted by four votes to two for the statue to go on College Green.

They have asked the House of Lords Committee to reconsider its decision.

Thankyou to all our wonderful sponsors who encouraged their MPs to raise the issue with the Committee, thankyou to all the MPs who responded to their constituents' requests, thankyou to all the sponsors who are MPs who wrote or spoke to Admin & Works Committee members, and thankyou to the four farsighted, responsive, progressive and thoughtful MPs who voted for our site.

More news as it is available!


Why this site?

We feel the site is particularly appropriate for a statue of Sylvia for the following reasons:

She will be looking towards the Palace of Westminster from which women were excluded. This links directly to her campaign Give Women the Vote. In 1914 Sylvia, recently released from prison, threatened an indefinite hunger and thirst strike until the Prime Minister, Asquith, agreed to meet a delegation of working women. The meeting took place - Sylvia was so weak that she had to be carried from the Statue of Richard Coeur de Lyon outside the Lords to the St. Stephen's entrance outside the Commons. Both of these places are in her statue's line of vision looking towards the Palace of Westminster.

Her commitment to improving the economic and social conditions of the poor, which she saw starkly in her work in the east end of London, emphasised the importance of sending MPs who were representative of workers into Parliament.

She was an ardent anti-racist campaigner too - so universal suffrage was her overall objective - which, again, makes the site appropriate.

The site on College Green is sunny and open - the public will be able to walk past the statue, or stop and look more closely (unlike Parliament Square which is in the middle of a major "traffic roundabout" and very divorced from people visiting the House of Commons). It stands opposite to the existing memorials to her sister and mother.

Given that Sylvia was expelled from the WSPU, the organisation controlled by her mother and elder sister, she should not be in the same place as her sister and mother but we feel it is appropriate that she is close to them.

The statue is designed to share scale with College Green - of sufficient stature to impress, but not to overwhelm. And, of course, Westminster City Council agrees with us and have granted planning permission for this site.


Inaugural Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Lecture 2003

Class, Race and Gender given by Professor Mary Davis, Labour Historian, head of the Centre for Trade Union Studies at London Metropolitan University, and author of "Sylvia Pankhurst, a life in radical politics"

Download the text of Professor Davis' lecture (16pp pdf file)

On Wednesday 11th June Sponsors gathered near the House of Commons to view the bronze maquette of our statue and receive an update on progress. Barbara reported that all the papers necessary for the hearing at the Parliamentary Works of Art Committee had been submitted and our target date is now December 2004. We really need the funding now if we are to make our dream a reality!
The pictures show, from top left clockwise: The committee with the bronze maquette (Barbara Switzer, Megan Dobney, Philippa Clark, Mary Davis); Ian Walters (the sculptor) with Linda Perham MP; two sponsors with Philippa (Judy McKnight, General Secretary of probation workers union NAPO, and Barbara White from the Musicians Union); Mary Davis reminding sponsors of Sylvia



What we want last updated 11 April 2001

purchase a Maquette of the statue last updated 21 April 2003

T-shirts and cards last updated 12 December 2009

new The Sylvia Pankhurst Library last updated 28 May 2002

The statue last updated 26 January 2001

Latest press coverage last updated 4 February 2004

Press coverage last updated 4 February 2004

About Sylvia Pankhurst (including books of interest) last updated 5 August 2009

About the Committee last updated 19 November 2018

Sponsors last updated 23 June 2016

New sponsors last updated 23 June 2016

Sites you may wish to visit last updated 5 August 2009

Suffrage postcards last updated 16 November 1999

To donate to the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Fund, send your cheque, made payable to "SERTUC (Sylvia Pankhurst)" to SERTUC at the address below.

Contact us at: Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee, SERTUC, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS, UK or email us.