Dame Ethel Mary Smyth and Emmeline Pankhurst
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (1858-1944) was an English music composer, author, and feminist. She studied at the Conservatorium in Leipzig and was the first woman to compose music in the forms of opera, oratorio and concerto. A number of her compositions were performed in concert in England as well as Germany.
Smyth's interest in women's rights in the music world drew her into the larger movement for women's suffrage. She became a militant suffragette, served a term in prison and befriended Emmeline Pankhurst. Her literary works include several autobiographies.
Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) organized the National Women's Social and Political Union in England in 1903, with the active support of her three daughters. She and her followers campaigned against Liberal party candidates whom they saw as opponents of women’s rights. Their tactics included defacing public property and disrupting Parliament meetings, and members of the group often spent time in prison, where they staged hunger strikes and were subjected to force-feedings.
Pankhurst was rewarded for her work in 1918, when English women over the age of thirty were granted the right to vote. Later, the Representation Act of 1928 gave English women the vote on the same basis as men. A statue in Pankhurst’s memory now stands near the Houses of Parliament.