The Pankhurst Anthem: Song written for women's vote centenary

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Emmeline Pankhurst was leader of the suffragette movement in the Edwardian era

Relatives of women's rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst have written a new choral piece marking 100 years of women's suffrage.

The Pankhurst Anthem features music by composer Lucy Pankhurst and text by Helen Pankhurst, based on words written by her great-grandmother.

Lucy said setting the words to music had been "a very humbling experience".

It will premiere on the Radio 3 website on 6 February, exactly 100 years after (some) British women got the vote.

Performed in two parts, the work opens with Echoes of Emmeline, which reflects on the suffragettes' struggle to be enfranchised.

Helen Pankhurst described the second part, called Anthem, as "an upbeat anthem, taking us forward, with community choirs encouraged to take part".

To enable amateur choirs to get involved, vocal scores of the work will be made available to download free of charge from the BBC Radio 3 website.

Audiences will also be invited to join the amateur choir Voices of Hope to perform the complete work on the opening day of the station's Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead on Friday, 9 March.

Emmeline Pankhurst

Image source, Getty Images
  • Emmeline Goulden was born on 14 July 1858 in Manchester into a family of radicals. She married Richard Pankhurst, a lawyer and supporter of votes for women, in 1879.
  • Following Richard's death, she founded an organisation campaigning for married women to be allowed to vote in local elections, and in October 1903, she helped found the Women's Social and Political Union.
  • The WSPU gained notoriety for its activities and its members were the first to be called 'suffragettes' - politicians, press and the public were astonished by their demonstrations, window smashing, arson and hunger strikes.
  • In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave votes to women over 30. Emmeline died on 14 June 1928, shortly after women were granted equal voting rights with men (at 21).

Source: BBC History

Radio 3 will mark the anniversary of women's suffrage with several other programmes - including The Drama of the Suffragettes, which will re-stage some of the provocative plays written by the Actresses' Franchise League in the early 20th Century.

The Breakfast show's 30 on 30 feature will see the likes of Marin Alsop and Sakari Oramo selecting music by a female composer they particularly admire.

The series will run until International Women's Day, 8 March, when Radio 3 will present a day of programming dedicated to female composers.

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