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Today marks the opening of our new exhibition ‘Women Who Shaped Manchester’ which runs until the 10th of March 2019.

The exhibition showcases just some of the Manchester women who contributed to shaping the landscape of the bustling ‘cottonopolis’ of Manchester at the turn of the 19th century.

Amongst those women celebrated is Emmeline Pankhurst, the mother of the radical suffragette movement. In 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst set up the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in her Manchester parlour. Along with her daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, she was repeatedly imprisoned for her political protests.

Jane Donaldson has given kind permission to repost this blog that details her research into the correspondence of the Pankhurst family with Manchester Guardian editor CP Scott. The letters give real insight into the prison conditions faced by suffragettes and the struggle for women to be recognised as political prisoners.

John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

Jane Donaldson writes:

Working through the letters from the Pankhurst family to C.P. Scott in the Guardian archives, I have come across a number of letters concerned with Suffragettes in prison. They comment on the length of sentences of imprisonment, hunger strikes, forcible-feeding and also on the prison division that the prisoners have been placed in. I have undertaken further research into these divisions, as I had no knowledge that prisons were divided at this time, and that each division would give prisoners different rights.

Prisons were divided into three divisions, with criminals being placed into each division according to their crime. Suffragettes argued that they were political prisoners, rather than criminal, and therefore should be placed into the first division. Letters from the Pankhurst family cite Russia and Turkey as examples of where militant action has taken place and has been successful in changing the political landscape, and therefore…

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