Tucked away amidst the sprawling modern development of the Manchester Royal Infirmary is the Grade II listed former home of Emmeline Pankhurst, in whose parlour the first meeting of the suffragettes was held in 1903 and the worldwide movement began. Today the activist’s home is the country’s only museum dedicated to female suffrage and exploring what the legacy of this means; past, present and future. After a period of closure for partial restoration, the museum is reopening its doors with a new permanent exhibition, At Home with the Pankhurst Family, which offers an intimate portrait of the people behind the iconic Pankhurst name; their ambitions, influences, tragedies, resourcefulness and the factors (including the city of Manchester, itself) that shaped them.
The first room is dedicated to domesticity, revealing more about the Pankhursts as a whole family than has ever been previously explored in an exhibition. Through strong graphical imagery, photographs, artefacts and other objects, the display recounts the impact of the death of Emmeline’s son, Frank, followed by her husband, Dr Richard Pankhurst, as well as the reduction in circumstances that brought Emmeline and her children (including Christabel, Sylvia, and Adela Pankhurst) to live at 62 Nelson Street. The second room is given over to an immersive audio-visual experience that recreates the Votes for Women campaign and the shockwaves it generated in vivid detail.
From these two rooms, visitors will emerge into the Edwardian parlour where suffragette meetings were held and Emmeline first uttered the immortal phrase, ‘Deeds not words’, which became the movement’s motto and encapsulated the philosophy behind its powerful campaign of disobedience and vandalism. Take a seat at the table and pour through letters, photographs and accounts relating to the group’s activities, then learn about Emmeline’s role as a Registrar of Births and Deaths in Chorlton, which gave her a deeper insight into the conditions of women in the region and reinforced her conviction that women needed the right to vote before their conditions could improve.
The opening of At Home with the Pankhurst Family is just the first step towards the overall restoration of The Pankhurst Centre, which runs largely on crowdfunding, charity donations and voluntary support. Head along to (re)discover the home that, for many years, acted as the hub for what would become one of history’s most renowned political movements, and gain a deeper insight into the incredible women who lived and gathered there.
This exhibition was designed by specialist museum consultancy Mather & Co., working closely alongside the Pankhurst Centre’s team and a panel of volunteers who form the Pankhurst Committee.