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Sunday 29 May 2016

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Scion of Suffragette heroine Pankhurst in Stormont visit

By Noel McAdam

Published 05/03/2016

Dr Helen Pankhurst. (Photo by Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images)
Dr Helen Pankhurst. (Photo by Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images)
Rights: Emmeline Pankhurst

The great-granddaughter of suffragette campaigner Emmeline Pankhurst is coming to Stormont next week to push for greater female involvement in public life.

Dr Helen Pankhurst will take part in a question and answer session in Parliament Buildings on Friday following a screening of the movie Suffragette, about women who played a role in the movement. She is among a number of special guests attending a full week of events making up the Assembly's first Women's Week.

They include former Victims Commissioner Kathryn Stone, who is returning to Northern Ireland to take part in a panel discussion on the career obstacles faced by women. The events aim to encourage the increasing participation of females "in all spheres of public life".

Dr Pankhurst has warned against a "rose-tinted rendition of history". "The suffragettes were freedom fighters. As conventional avenues to voice demands for the right of women to vote were increasingly blocked and promises broken, they resorted to unconventional and unruly strategies," she has written. "These caused disruption and involved attacks on public and private property. Arson, smashing windows and burning postboxes were but a few of the myriad of tactics adopted in the face of the myopia, intransigence and brutal repression of the State.

"Yet, despite the misgivings of those who questioned whether the ends justified the means, the suffragettes actively contributed to the ratcheting up of violence.

"So, as we honour their courage and the changes they effected, which we all now benefit from in our more egalitarian society, we shouldn't gloss over the moral dilemmas of their struggle.

"I'm all for the adoption of the suffragettes as 'the good guys', but let's not be seduced by a tame, rose-tinted rendition of history - lest we forget the complex and painful path travelled to effect social change."

For Women's Week events details, see

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