Statue of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst unveiled in Manchester

London (AFP) –


A statue of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was inaugurated on Friday in the northern English city Manchester, to mark the centenary of the first election in which women -- aged over 30 -- were allowed to vote.

Pankhurst (1858-1928), who was from Manchester, founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903 and became the most prominient activist for female suffrage of the era.

She campaigned alongside her three daughters -- Christabel, Adela and Sylvia -- and was imprisoned and released eleven times.

The statue, created by sculptor Hazel Reeves, depicts the activist standing on a chair making a speech, her right arm outstretched.

It has been erected in the city's St Peter's Square -- where suffragette gatherings took place and she first agitated on the issue.

"Emmeline, I'm so sorry your statue has been a long, long time coming -- exactly 100 years since you proudly first placed your ballot paper into that box," Reeves said.

"It's been a huge privilege, it really has, and a real labour of love."

Hundreds of women dressed as suffragettes in green and purple sashes -- the movement's emblematic colours -- gathered for the unveiling.

Pankhurst's great-granddaughter Helen Pankhurst, 54, called it "a wonderful tribute" to her life, work, and the cause.

She said it rightly honoured "the role of Manchester women who campaigned for the right to vote".

The 1918 Representation of the People Act was one of the first in Europe to allow women to vote in a national election.

However it was another decade -- and a few weeks after Pankhurst's death -- for women to be able to vote at the age of 21, like men.

In April, a statue of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in front of the British parliament in London -- the first statue of a female in this highly symbolic location.

Suffragettes like Pankhurst advocated direct action, smashing shop windows or setting fire to buildings, while suffragists such as Fawcett were non-violent devotees to the cause.