Emmeline Pankhurst arrested outside Buckingham Palace, 21 May 1914

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Emmeline Pankhurst being carried away from Buckingham Palace by a police officer in May 1914.
Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst being carried away from Buckingham Palace in London, England after being arrested while trying to present a petition to King George V of the United Kingdom, 21st May 1914. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

‘Arrested at the gates of the Palace. Tell the King’ she exclaimed as she was brutally shifted away from the scene of the ‘crime’. Huckled by an imposing police officer and a disgruntled higher class chap with his top hat, the legendary Emmeline Pankhurst is displayed being arrested, for the eighth time, outside Buckingham Palace.

Known for her role in the violent Suffragette movement, Emmeline Pankhurst was a women’s right activist who created the Women’s Social and Political Union aimed at providing women with the vote. Pankhurst and her fellow protestors would not stop till this was achieved. She later stood as a Conservative Party candidate and has a statue in Westminster for her hard work towards the progression of Britain.

This particular arrest would follow a plan created by the Suffragettes movement on May 21st 1914 whereby the Suffragette women attempted to storm Buckingham Palace in a raid for rights, only to be met with police brutality. In their bid to gain the vote for women, the Suffragettes were increasingly becoming more mobile and violent in their actions. Their notorious campaign of protests was continually met with just as violent a response from the state. This particular raid would be the last of the action before the outbreak of the First World War.

This image specifically would depict a frail and weak looking Pankhurst following her days hunger-striking and being subject to force feeding. Indeed, the Suffragettes leader had only been released from Holloway Prison, under the Cat and Mouse Act, in March, prior to this photo being taken. The result would show a dominating Inspector Rolfe easily subduing Pankhurst and sending her straight back to Holloway. Interestingly, Rolfe would die just 2 weeks later of heart failure. Indeed, it would be easy to assume the police foiled this attempt at protests with the 2000 ready police arresting 60 of the 200 women fighting for their rights. The police met the protestors just as brutally as the protestors had planned to meet the police, everyone with battens in hand – although the women did egg the police which is always good fun. This particular response would lead to an outrage and consequent reprisal attack by the Suffragettes which included smashing the glass within the British Museum.

This particular charge at Buckingham Palace was a change from the usual Suffragette focus on Westminster. Instead, following the success the Irish Republicans had consulting King George personally, the Suffragettes felt their point may be better heard going straight into the lion’s den. This plan would ultimately fail for the women’s rights movement, with it taking a World War and four years later before women even remotely get any enfranchisement. It wouldn’t be till the 1928 Representation of the People act that would grant all women the vote in the United Kingdom. Shamefully late, but nonetheless an eventual and necessary representation of girl power in the modern world with a special thanks needed for Pankhursts efforts.

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