No wonder why EmmelinePankhurst’s “Freedom or Death”is considered one of the ten greatest speeches of the 20th century.She delivered her speech inHartford, Connecticut, on a fundraising tour of the United States that tookplace in 1913.
Hartfort is nearBoston, where the American Revolutionfor the independence started (which would explain all the references that Mrs.Pankhurst makes to the war in herspeech). Women at that time were excluded by the State from citizenship. Theywere not considered equal as men,regarding jobs, pensions, salaries… She was personally affected by this unfairness during her life, eventhough the fact that she belonged to an upper class made 0 more difficult for the rest of people to understand her violent ways. Emmeline Pankhurst lived through tragedy and op0ression: personally and historically, she lived during WWI being the oldest of 10 children.
Her familyreally had an influence on her, they had a really progressive way of thinking(her mother was a feminist and took Emmeline to meetings since she was a littlechild). She had really strongconvictions, and could not accept that her brothers would 0 able to study and she wouldn’ts1 just for thefact of being a woman, so she convi0ced herparents to send her to study in Paris, where she learnt french, chemistry and finances. When she was 21 she married aman who was much older than her, with whom she had 5 children. Pankhurst f0unded in 1903s2 the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), makingthe suffrage movement stronger than ever. Even though suffragettes damaged greatlys3 public and private property: smashing windows,burning churches ..
. they did not hurt anybody. Evenmore,British suffragettes were beaten up, sexually molested, even tortured whenimprisoned, being force fed with steelimplements to keep their jaws open, and tubes were inserted through their noses to pour in food. Even though Emmeline Pankhurst was never force fed, she relates in herautobiography how she would never forget the cries of the women being torturedin cells next to her. The biggest priority for EmmelinePankhurst was to get women to vote, she believed that once they archieved votes for women everythingelse would come forward. In March 1912 suffragettes threw stones at Downing str. They got plenty criticism about their ways and violencebrought Emmeline to prison. She was sent to jail for 9 months where she tookpart in a hunger strike, since she thought that the only way of getting her out of prison, even if it wouldnt be for long.
This temporaryfreedom was due to the “Cat and Mouse Act” that would allow imprisonedwomen that were taking part in a hunger strike to get out until they became stronger enough to come back to prison, again and again. She gives this speech in America inorder to get the american support for the british women to vote, she gives itin a meantime while she’s out of prison. Her audience is mixed: there are bothmen and women, and she’s basically trying to recruit them for her cause. (Thereare many american women among her audience who are suffrage supporters such asKatherine Hepburn, leader of thesuffrage movement in America).In her speech, Mrs.
Pankhurstjustifies the violent acts from the suffragettes explaining that, at thatpoint, they have no other choice. On 10th august 1914 , and because of the war, the britishgovernment agrees to release all the sufregettes from prison in order to getall their support. In 1917 Emmeline and her daughterformed the Women’s Party and demandedequality of rights and oportunity in public service, maternity and marriagelaws, as well as equal pay for equal work (because during war men were outfighting and women were working the fields, driving the buses, proving thatwomen were able to do men’s work, equally efficiently). Emmeline Pankhurst’s speech is consideredone of the seeds that made possible that in 1918, british women over 30 years old were given the permission to vote. On 14thJune 1928 she died, and a few weeks later women were grantedequal rights with men in England.