Helen Pankhurst

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Helen Pankhurst

Helen Pankhurst at BBC Broadcasting House for the BBC 100 Women Wikipedia editathon.png
Dr. Helen Pankhurst at Broadcasting House, London during BBC 100 Women 2016
Helen Pankhurst

1964 (age 57–58)
Alma mater
  • Activist
  • Writer
  • International Development Expert

Helen Pankhurst CBE (born 1964)[citation needed] is a British women's rights activist, scholar and writer. She is currently CARE International's senior advisor working in the UK and Ethiopia.[1][2] She is the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, who were both leaders in the suffragette movement. In 2018 Pankhurst convened the Centenary Action Group, a cross-party coalition of over 100 activists, politicians and women's rights organisations campaigning to end barriers to women's political participation.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Helen Pankhurst was brought up in Ethiopia until the age of 12, the daughter of historian Richard Pankhurst. He and his mother Sylvia Pankhurst, the former suffragette, had settled in that country in the 1950s. Her paternal grandfather was Silvio Corio, an Italian anarchist. Helen's mother was Rita Eldon Pankhurst, academic and activist.[4] Helen has one sibling, Alula Pankhurst, like both their parents a scholar of Ethiopia.

She began her studies in French, at the Lycée Guebre-Mariam in Addis Ababa. The family moved to London following the coup d'etat of 1974 which overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie and began the Ethiopian Civil War.[5] She continued her schooling at the Lycée Charles de Gaulle before going on to the Atlantic College in Wales, the first of the United World Colleges. She then studied at Sussex University in England, Vassar College in New York, and finally Edinburgh University, Scotland, where she gained a PhD degree in social science.[6] Her thesis was published by Zed Press in 1992 as Gender Development and Identity: An Ethiopian Study.

Work and activism[edit]

Helen Pankhurst has worked for a range of international development organisations including ACORD, Womankind Worldwide and CARE International, primarily in Ethiopia. Her focus has been on programme and policy in urban and rural development, water hygiene and sanitation, and women's rights.

Pankhurst has been a trustee of Water Aid, Farm Africa and Action Aid[7] and has been a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE) and a Visiting Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University.

At the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, Pankhurst appeared alongside her daughter, Laura. The pair have since formed a group called Olympic Suffragettes, which campaigns on a number of women's rights issues. She also leads and speaks at the London march each year on 8 March for International Women's Day.[8]

In 2018 Pankhurst convened the Centenary Action Group (CAG), a cross-party coalition of over 100 activists, politicians and women's rights organisations campaigning to end barriers to women's political participation.[9] CAG has campaigned on issues ranging from increased transparency in political party candidate selections to an end to the violence and abuse of women.[10]

Pankhurst leads and sits on the steering committee of GM4women2028, a charity creating change for the women of Manchester. Other committee members include Prof Francesca Gains and Professor Jill Rubery.[11] In February 2021 she led "a virtual score card reveal" witnessed by Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester. The GM4Women2028 score cards are keeping track of gender equality as Manchester approaches 2028 - the centenary of the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928, which gave all British women the right to vote on equal terms to men.[12]

During the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, she led lobbying on behalf of childcare providers to ensure that they were treated fairly by the government's Job Retention Scheme. [13]

Honours and awards[edit]

She has an honorary PhD from Edge Hill University. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to gender equality. In October 2018, she was appointed the first chancellor of the University of Suffolk,[14] a largely ceremonial role.


Pankhurst's book Deeds not Words: The Story Of Women's Rights Then And Now was published in February 2018.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Pankhurst is the great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, campaigner for the suffragette movement in the United Kingdom. She is the daughter of historian Richard Keir Pethick Pankhurst and librarian Rita (née Eldon) Pankhurst, her brother is Alula Pankhurst. Suffragette leaders Christabel and Adela were her great-aunts.[16] She married David Loakes (retaining her maiden name) and has two adult children.[17]

Pankhurst advised on and had a cameo role in the 2015 film Suffragette alongside her daughter.[16] She promoted the film around the world, visiting Australia, Japan, USA and throughout the UK.


  1. ^ "Helen Pankhurst". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Inspirational Woman: Dr Helen Pankhurst | An International Womens Day Special – WeAreTheCity | Information, Networking, jobs & events for women". WeAreTheCity.com. 15 February 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  3. ^ Pankhurst, Helen. "The Government is failing women in this suffragette centenary year". The Telegraph. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  4. ^ Rita Pankhurst's obituary, 11 June 2019.
  5. ^ "My Long Friendship With Richard and Rita Pankhurst". Ethiopia Observer. 27 August 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  6. ^ Pankhurst, Helen (1990). "Women, the peasantry and the state in Ethiopia". Edinburgh Research Archive. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Dr. Helen Pankhurst". HuffPost. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  8. ^ Topping, Alexandra (19 August 2012). "Olympic suffragettes regroup for women's rights march on parliament". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  9. ^ Pankhurst, Helen. "The Government is failing women in this suffragette centenary year". The Telegraph. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  10. ^ Response to UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Report "Violence Against Women in Politics"
  11. ^ "Our steering committee". GM4Women2028. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  12. ^ "Data, Deeds and Determination: GM4Women2028 (The University of Manchester)". www.socialresponsibility.manchester.ac.uk. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Written evidence submitted by GM4WOMEN2028". UK Parliament. April 2020. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  14. ^ Mooney, Bernadette (5 October 2018). "University of Suffolk announces first Chancellor". University of Suffolk. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  15. ^ Helen Pankhurst (6 February 2018). Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women's Rights – Then and Now. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-1-4736-4686-5.
  16. ^ a b Pankhurst, Helen (3 March 2016). "My great-grandmother, Emmeline Pankhurst, would still be fighting for equality today". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  17. ^ Sylvia Pankhurst- A Crusading Life, 1882-1960, Shirley Harrison, Aurum, 2003, p. 184, 280