Gender Inequality

Paintings of working women by a leading suffragette acquired for Britain

A child dressed as a suffragette demonstrates during the March4Women event in central London, Britain, March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC13A4625540

A child dressed as a suffragette demonstrates during the March4Women event in London. Image: REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Sonia Elks
Journalist, Reuters
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Gender Inequality?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Gender Inequality is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Gender Inequality

The paintings have been acquired for Britain as it marks 100 years since women were allowed to vote

Four paintings by one of Britain's leading suffragettes, Sylvia Pankhurst, documenting the conditions of female workers in the early 20th century, have been acquired for the nation as it marks 100 years since women were allowed to vote.

The watercolours by Pankhurst, a key figure in the women's suffrage movement that was founded by her mother Emmeline, were painted during a tour of industries in 1907 to highlight the poor conditions and low wages faced by working-class women.

They have now been purchased from her family by the government-sponsored Tate gallery network.

"At a time when gender pay gaps and women's rights at work remain urgent topical issues, these images remind us of the role art can play in inspiring social change," Ann Gallagher, director of collections for British art, said in a statement.

Pankhurst, who died aged 78 in 1960, was among the leading figures in militant organisations in the early 20th century pushing for women's rights and votes.

Have you read?

It was not until 1918 that Britain granted women aged over 30 who met a property qualification the right to vote and to run for parliament. They had been able to contest local elections since 1907.

Pankhurst used her art as a campaigning tool, and created the four paintings during a trip to research and document the lives of poor working women in northern England and Scotland.

Two of the watercolours show cotton mills in Glasgow, Scotland, where Pankhurst later described "the almost deafening noise of the machinery and the oppressive heat", saying she was "so hot and airless that I fainted within an hour".

The other two show Staffordshire potteries, in northern England, where women were often restricted to lower-paid jobs and exposed to flint dust and fumes from lead glaze.

The pictures were purchased from her grandchildren, Helen and Alula Pankhurst, and will go on display at the Tate Britain in central London in 2020, the gallery said.

"Sylvia was an artist as well as a champion of working women's rights, her first passion not as well known as her second," Helen Pankhurst, who is also a women's rights campaigner, said in a statement.

"In these beautiful pieces these interests are powerfully combined."

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Gender InequalityEducation
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

5 conditions that highlight the women’s health gap

Kate Whiting

February 27, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum