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Great granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst visits the First Ladies of Barking and Dagenham

PUBLISHED: 17:00 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:24 07 February 2019

L-R back row: Paulette Thomas, Dr Helen Pankhurst, Gizelle Regis, Valerie Warren and Carol Harris. L-R front row: Cheryl Sushams and Victoria Hadley. Picture: JON KING

L-R back row: Paulette Thomas, Dr Helen Pankhurst, Gizelle Regis, Valerie Warren and Carol Harris. L-R front row: Cheryl Sushams and Victoria Hadley. Picture: JON KING

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The great granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst called on families to share the story of how women won the vote on a visit to Barking.

Sufferagette Emily Pankhurst addressing a meeting in London's Trafalgar Square, 1908.Sufferagette Emily Pankhurst addressing a meeting in London's Trafalgar Square, 1908.

Dr Helen Pankhurst spoke to about 80 people at the First Ladies of Barking and Dagenham Women’s Institute meeting in The Ripple Road Centre on Wednesday.

Dr Pankhurst said: “It’s really important we continue telling that story. If we don’t vote, politicians won’t take our voices into account.

“It is critical to think about [the women’s] movement. This was not only about the vote. It was about the actions of individual women.

“And it was about changing how we treat people. It was about enough people saying we believe society can be different. That is the stuff of change.”

The activist – who also counts suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst as her grandmother – was in Barking to talk about how far women have come in the last 100 years and future priorities.

The suffragettes were members of militant women’s organisations who fought for the right to vote in public elections which was known as women’s suffrage.

A mother-of-two, Dr Pankhurst read extracts from her book Deeds not Words including the words of a 14-year-old girl who hailed the suffragette’s legacy for teaching her that she could make anything possible.

Dr Pankhurst talked about a number of issues including violence, gender pay, identity and social media.

She said women had come a long way since the days when their roles were confined to the ‘Five Cs’: cooking, cleaning, cashiering, clerking and childcare.

“We have progressed massively. Women have their own jobs and financial independence. But job insecurity is turning us back,” she said.

She attacked social media saying it made young women and girls obsess over their appearances.

Many agreed, but one member of the audience said that taking pride in appearances helped with confidence.

A teacher in the audience added that the pressure social media put on young girls must be impossible to cope with.

Dr Pankhurst – who featured in the 2015 film Suffragette – also spoke about traditional differences between men and women with the first often seen as independent and the second ‘relational’ or more focused on relationships.

“For me, relational is really powerful. The problem is society doesn’t see it as powerful. It sees it as weak. We can be relational or autonomous.

“But let’s not box ourselves in,” she said.

To find out more about the Women’s Institute’s work email wifirstladies@gmail.com

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