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Sylvia Pankhurst: Honorary Ethiopian

Helen Pankhurst presents the previously untold story of one of the foremost Suffragettes, uncovering her grandmother Sylvia's role in the fight for Ethiopian Independence.

Helen Pankhurst presents the previously untold story of one of the foremost Suffragettes, as she uncovers her grandmother Sylvia's role in the fight for Ethiopian Independence, and reveals a lifelong love for the fascinating country that became her home.

Emmeline's radical left-wing daughter, Sylvia Pankhurst, became deeply involved in the Ethiopian cause following its invasion by Italy in 1935. She would later be recognised as an honorary Ethiopian, and eventually given a state funeral. She also became an avid writer on Ethiopian culture, culminating in the publishing of her work Ethiopia, a Cultural History.

Triggered by Mussolini's invasion of the country in 1935, Sylvia Pankhurst set up a weekly journal campaigning for, and championing, the Ethiopian cause. The paper, and her passion for Ethiopia and its people, long outlasted the Italian occupation. She spent the last four years of her life living, at the emperor's invitation, in Addis Ababa with her son Richard and his wife Rita - Helen's parents.

The family lives in that same house today, and Helen is in Addis Ababa to meet some of the few locals still alive who knew Sylvia. She discovers Sylvia's legacy in Ethiopia - she was the first non-Ethiopian to be granted a state funeral, as well as having a street and café named after her.

Helen spends time with her mother, Rita, who remembers Sylvia as an energetic woman, as committed to the causes she was fighting for in her 70s as she was to the suffragette cause and Communist activity that most people in the UK remember her for.

A Boom Shakalaka production for BBC Radio 4.

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28 minutes

Last on

Wed 7 Feb 2018 11:00