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Christabel Pankhurst was the driving force behind the Women's Social and Political Union, which was founded by her mother, Emmeline, in 1903 in order to lobby for female suffrage. The organisation became increasingly militant, largely under Christabel's bold influence. The painting appears to show Pankhurst addressing a public meeting or as part of a public demonstration. She wears a sash with the colours adopted by the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU): white to stand for purity, green for hope and purple for dignity. Wright's painting is significant as a document of the women's suffrage movement. Subscribed to by Pankhurst's supporters, contemporary press accounts report that it was at the centre of a 'storm' when it was rejected for inclusion at the 1909 Royal Academy exhibition: 'for years no other painting by Miss Wright has been barred from the exhibition by the Royal Academicians, and therefore the suffragettes are especially indignant over the exclusion of their leader's portrait'.
Dame Christabel Pankhurst
oil on canvas
H 160 x W 94 cm
Bequeathed by Elizabeth Ruth Dugdale Weir, 2010