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Analysis of Emmeline Pankhurst’s Speech "Why We Are Militant"

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Analysis of Emmeline Pankhurst’s Speech "Why We Are Militant" essay
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Emmeline Pankhurst was born in 1858 in England. She grew up with an interest in politics and women’s suffrage. She was heavily involved in strikes for working womens rights, such as the London Matchgirls strike in 1888. She started a political organization, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903, which called for limited suffrage for women ( upper and middle class women). Starting in 1905 attempts to gain attention and publicity, the women resorted to violence, interrupting political meetings and holding rallies. When suffragettes went on hunger strikes to gain attention, many were force fed.

At demonstrations, they were beat down and sexually assaulted. Eventually, with dwindling support, the WSPU resorted to arson, and in 1913, a suffragette named Emily Davison ran out on the track during the Derby, a race that was attended by the highest members of society. She attempted to grab King George’s horse, and was killed. All these methods had mixed reactions.

Although it gained the attention of the public and the government, this attention was usually negative and used against the women and their arguments for suffrage. The reactions the public had towards suffragettes is what Emmeline Pankhurst was reacting to when she began speaking across the country, and in the United States, in an attempt to gain more support.


This is a speech where Pankhurst is explaining the hypocrisy of men refusing to allow women to vote, while trying to explain why it is women want to vote. Audience In this speech Pankhurst is talking to a primarily American audience. This audience is important because of the slight cultural differences between the English and Americans that will change how they view women’s suffrage. Additionally, the audience won’t have the first hand observations of the suffragettes actions and views, only biased news sources. She is trying to provide them with an additional view in the struggle women are going through. Pankhurst gives these people some background to the way that men in her history have behaved in order to get their rights, by rioting and violence.

Moreover, the fact that she is talking to a partially male audience, whom she refers to as ‘gentlemen’, shapes the analogies she gives in trying to explain her behaviour. She compares her struggle with the struggle of men in other lands who are also fighting against oppressors, who they support, and questions why she isn’t given the same sympathy and support. Context America had a similar experience to men in relation to women’s suffrage. Women in the US were considered citizens, but the right to vote wasn’t a tenant of citizenship.

However, working class women in the suffrage movement created relationships with unions and labour parties and by 1911 they achieved partial suffrage in 29 states. However, American suffragettes didn’t resort to the same level of violence as British suffragettes did. This would have made the actions of British suffragettes harder for American men to understand, as they saw American women working toward the votes without using these violent means. 2Significance This text shows us the reasons suffragettes resorted to violence in an attempt to get the vote. This can help us understand (even if we don’t support it) why modern activist groups also use violence for their causes. What is also good about this document is that it helps us understand the view of men at that time, and why they may have not supported women’s suffrage, an important feature in a primary source.


This source doesn’t recognize or reference any similar movement towards women’s suffrage in other countries. There were similar events going on in similar countries, such as America. Why doesn’t she respond to the different ways these different women are trying to obtain suffrage? It could be a way to keep the focus on only British women, however, I find it strange that Pankhurst doesn’t use similar movements to help her audience understand her struggles and goals.

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Analysis of Emmeline Pankhurst’s Speech “Why We Are Militant”. (2020, April 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from
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