HELEN PANKHURST: international development and women’s rights activist and writer

Photography by: Jenny Douglas, Ellen Jackson and Charlotte Pickering

Words by Harry Potts


Helen Pankhurst (born 1964) is an international development and women’s rights activist and writer. Helen is the great-granddaughter of Moss Side born Emmilene Pankhurst the British political activist and leader of the suffragette movement and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst the campaigner for the suffragette movement in the UK.

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Helen photographed against a mosaic of great-grandmother Emmilene Pankhurst

Helen is currently CARE International’s senior advisor working in the UK and Ethiopia. In 2018, to coincide with 100 years of women’s suffrage, she 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.

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Helen outside the Pankhurst Centre


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The Pankhurst Centre
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Emmilene Pankhurst’s arrest outside Buckingham Palace, 1914 (photo: IWM)

Helen is a patron of The Pankhurst Centre at Nelson St in Manchester – Emmilene Pankhurst’s family home and the birthplace of the suffragette movement – which Helen officially opened by in 1987.  She is also busy as a visiting Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Helen’s book, Deeds not Words: The Story Of Women’s Rights Then And Now was published in 2018. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2019 for services to Gender Equality.

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Helen maintains her strong ties to the city of Manchester


Student reflection: Charlotte Pickering

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Helen & Charlotte chatting

“Photographing Helen Pankhurst was a really positive experience for me. The photography took place at The Pankhurst Centre, a hidden gem which I never knew was in my hometown – the history it held was really interesting and inspirational. I shot my photos on black & white 35mm film, a format I really enjoy working with which I believe adds depth and character to the images. Helen was incredibly patient with us all and even took the time to answer my questions about the importance of feminism, which I have subsequently incorporated into my Final Major Project about empowerment.”


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Helen Pankhurst CBE
© All images – The Manchester College (unless otherwise stated)


Related links:

Daily Telegraph – Women/Lifestyle

The Guardian – Helen Pankhurst

Helen Pankhurst – Manchester Metropolitan University

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