Christabel Pankhurst: Fundamentalism and Feminism in Coalition

Christabel Pankhurst: Fundamentalism and Feminism in Coalition

Christabel Pankhurst: Fundamentalism and Feminism in Coalition

Christabel Pankhurst: Fundamentalism and Feminism in Coalition

Synopsis

Christabel Pankhurst was arguably the most influential member of her famous family in the struggle to win the vote for women in the years before the First World War. Paradoxically, she has also been the most neglected subsequently by historians. Part of the reason for this may be that, in the years after women's suffrage had been achieved in 1918, she turned her energies to Christian fundamentalism and carved out a new career as a writer of best-selling evangelical books and as a high-profile speaker on the fundamentalist preaching circuit, particularly in the United States. In this important new work Tim Larsen provides the first full account of this part of Christabel Pankhurst's life. He thus offers both a highly original contribution to Christabel Pankhurst's biography and also a fascinating commentary on the relationship between fundamentalism and feminism. His book will be essential reading for anyone interested in the Pankhursts, in the history of the women's movement, or in fundamentalism in Britain and North America.TIMOTHY LARSEN is Associate Professor of Theology, Wheaton College, USA.

Excerpt

The British have never forgotten Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958). Alongside her mother, Emmeline, she led the Women's Social and Political Union as it pursued its militant campaign to obtain votes for women. Christabel Pankhurst had personally inaugurated the civil disobedience phase of the campaign and was therefore, together with Annie Kenney, the first - but by no means the last - of the Suffragettes to go to prison. Pankhurst's tactical mind was a major force behind the waves of militant feminist action which marked that dramatic period in British history. Her name was on everyone's lips for the most important years of the campaign, not least those of the prime minister, members of the cabinet, and MPs. the outbreak of the Great War followed by the granting of votes for (some) women in 1918 permanently ended Pankhurst's role as a militant leader in the women's struggle. Around twenty years later, however, her nation remembered her formally. in the 1936 New Year's honours list it was announced that she had been created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. When Dame Christabel Pankhurst died on 13 February 1958 at her home in Santa Monica, California, the British nation responded to this loss by adding a permanent memorial to her next to the one of her mother that stood near the House of Lords. Less than twenty years after that act of remembering, women's rights came to the fore once again, and Pankhurst's name has become familiar to generations of British schoolchildren ever since. Historians have also become aware in recent decades that history writing in the past had largely excluded women and have endeavoured to introduce the lives of women and the experiences of women into their narratives. Today it would be hard to imagine any general account of British history in the twentieth century that would leave out the name of Christabel Pankhurst.

On the other hand, although Pankhurst is often named, she is rarely studied. in fact, in an age when very impressive scholarly biographies are continually appearing of women that most well-educated people have never heard of before, and many well-known women seem to find a new biographer on a triennial basis, no academic has ever written a biography of Christabel Pankhurst. Indeed, David Mitchell's Queen Christabel, published a quarter of a century ago, is the only attempt that has ever been made by anyone to write a full biography of Christabel Pankhurst and, as will come out in the course of this study, it is a seriously flawed . . .

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