Tuesday 16 March 2021

Book Review: My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst

My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst book cover

Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement who helped women win the right to vote. In 1999, Time named Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th-Century. She was widely criticised for her militant tactics, and historians disagree about their effectiveness, but her work is recognised as a crucial element in achieving women's suffrage in Britain.

For International Women's Day earlier this month, I decided to read My Own Story, the biography of iconic suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

This book tells the story of the British suffrage campaign in the early 1900s. It's factual and informative yet also highly readable - with the exception of some legalities involved in the various court cases. The narrative and storytelling are excellent.

It's important to note that women did not actually get the vote until 1918 with the Representation of the People Act (and even then, that only applied to approximately two-thirds of women in the UK at the time). My Own Story was written on the eve of World War One, so it doesn't actually get to the 1918 Act. However, Emmeline Pankhurst closes the book on a positive and hopeful note, speaking to both contemporary and future readers about her thoughts on women's suffrage at that time. 

Above all else, this book drives home just how prejudiced the government of the time really were. Reading the book ignites righteous fury on behalf of all the brave women who fought for the simple constitutional right to vote. These women faced adversity from almost every corner, yet they pushed through with dogged determination to achieve their goal. 

We all know the basics of the suffragette movement, but reading My Own Story has undoubtedly given me a newfound appreciation of all that these women did for us. Without their tireless work, I may not have the right to vote today.

Women's Rights Today

Reading My Own Story also feels incredibly important in light of recent events surrounding the murder of Sarah Everard. Every woman should have the right to leave her house alone and to walk at night without fear. Violence, threats, harassment, and prejudice against women need to stop. 

The Met Police's response to the vigil for Sarah on Clapham Common on 13th March 2021 was appalling. A peaceful, candlelit vigil turned into ugly scenes of violence where police were seen removing people by force and throwing them to the ground. 

Compared to the police's response to the celebrations of Rangers fans in Glasgow the previous weekend, the contrast is insane. This is just one part of a widespread problem with the way that women are seen and treated in our society.

Sarah Everard's tragic death has brought the issue of women's safety to the forefront of the media and the minds of the public. Now is the time to stand together and finally put an end to the abuse that women and girls across the world face every single day.

Thanks to Emmeline Pankhurst and all the other countless, brave women, we can vote. However, there is still a very long journey ahead of us.


Have you read My Own Story? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below! 

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