3rd March 2021, 2:00pm


Richard Pankhurst - Progressive Campaigner, Husband to Emmeline Pankhurst and Father to Sylvia Pankhurst

Born in 1836, Richard Pankhurst was a practising barrister, and founder of the Manchester Liberal Association. During his legal career, he was legal advisor to Lydia Becker, as well as the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage. He joined the Manchester Lit & Phil in 1892.

Nicknamed the ‘Red Doctor’ due to his progressive views, Pankhurst was heavily involved with politics. He was outspoken, and famously declared the House of Lord’s as ‘a public abattoir butchering the liberties of the people’. Although outbursts such as this hindered his chances of ever making a serious run for parliamentary office, he won acolytes within the Independent Labour Party.

Pankhurst campaigned for women’s rights, and was a strong advocate for the campaign for women to become lawyers. In 1878, he married Emmeline Goulden—who would become Emmeline Pankhurst—and they established the Independent Labour Party and the Women’s Franchise League. The radical power couple kept company with the likes of William Morris, George Bernard Shaw, and Annie Besant. Both Richard and Emmeline were members of the Fabian Society. However, in 1900 two years after Richard’s death—Emmeline left the Fabian Society as they refused to oppose the Boer War.

Emmeline and Richard’s legacy can be felt across Manchester today. The Pankhurst Trust was formed in 2014 as a merger between The Pankhurst Trust and Manchester Women’s Aid, a specialist provider of domestic abuse services.


Discover more

  • The People's History Museum, Manchester, celebrate both Emmeline Pankhurst and Sylvia Pankhurst as PHM Radicals
  • Peterloo to the Pankhursts is a free online course created by the PHM in collaboration with Royal Holloway, University of London