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Sylvia Pankhurst: A life of purpose… but what relevance to Suffolk 2023

Professor Helen Pankhurst

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Waterfront Building, University of Suffolk, Neptune Quay, Ipswich, IP4 1QJ

Important notice: This event has been postponed.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused. This event will not be taking place on the 8th February and will be rescheduled to a future date.


The lecture will commence with Professor Pankhurst reflecting on the pioneering life of her grandmother Sylvia Pankhurst who together with her sister Christabel and mother Emmeline, founded the suffragette movement. Sylvia went on to lead a long, fascinating, purposeful and impactful life of which the votes for women campaign was but a chapter. She was also a writer, editor, artist and poet. There are many aspects of how Sylvia thought, what she did and how she did it, that are important to explore in the world today.

The second part of the event consists of a panel discussion and cameos from staff/students on various aspects of the work of the University of Suffolk which echo themes that will have emerged from Sylvia’s life. The audience will be encouraged to then engage with a Q&A session.

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Professor Helen Pankhurst is a writer, academic, women’s right activist and senior adviser to CARE International, working in the UK and Ethiopia. She is also a Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Helen is the granddaughter of Sylvia, great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, leaders of the British suffragette movement. Helen’s book, Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights, Then and Now, was also released to coincide with the anniversary. It has been highly praised and is being used to highlight not only the progress made over the last 100 years but how far we still need to go.

Helen convenes the Centenary Action Group (a coalition addressing the barriers to women in politics) and GM4Women2028 (a coalition focused on Greater Manchester and looking at the data on gender inequality, charting changes between 2018 and 2028). Each year around International Women’s Day, Helen also leads CARE International’s March4Women, a march and musical event in London, to raise awareness of specific areas of women’s rights. In COVID times this has gone online, as a social media campaign.

Helen was involved in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics alongside her daughter, Laura, and as well as having a cameo in the 2015 film Suffragette, she also acted in an advisory capacity.

Brought up in Ethiopia until the age of 12, and initially had a French education. After moving to the UK, she attended The United World College of The Atlantic in Wales and then studied at the University of Sussex and Vassar College, New York before gaining a social science PhD from the University of Edinburgh. She holds Honorary Degrees from Edge Hill University and the University of Manchester and has been awarded a CBE in the New Year Honours list, for her services to gender equality.

Helen is the University’s first Chancellor since the University gained independence status in 2016.


Dr Helen Pankhurst (4) University of Suffolk 0
Professor Helen Pankhurst


The lecture commences at 18:00, with teas and coffees from 17:30.