Papers of, and relating to, Sylvia Pankhurst

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of articles and essays by Sylvia Pankhurst, her prison discharge notice of 1914, and her correspondence relating to the International Ethiopian Council. The archive also includes articles by her son, Richard Pankhurst, and the correspondence of her daughter-in-law, Rita Pankhurst, relating to Sylvia Pankhurst.

Administrative / Biographical History

Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) was the second daughter of Richard Marsden Pankhurst (1835-1898) and Emmeline Pankhurst née Goulden (1858-1928). She was educated at Southport High School for Girls and Manchester High School for Girls and trained as an artist at the Manchester Municipal School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. Sylvia, along with the rest of her family, was socially and politically active. Initially she became involved in the Independent Labour Party and in the militant activities of the Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU), which had been founded by her mother and her sister, Christabel. In 1912/1913 she founded the East London Federation of the Suffragettes (from 1916 The Workers Suffrage Federation and from 1918 the Workers Socialist Federation) and also became increasingly involved with social welfare work in the East End of London. As a pacifist, during the First World War Sylvia became a member of the Executive Committee of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. During and after the War she became progressively more occupied with revolutionary left-wing activities, briefly joined the Communist Party, and in 1921 formed the Communist Workers Party. Throughout this period she participated in international socialist networks and her political writings were published widely, including in leading foreign socialist journals. In 1924 she left the East End and moved to Woodford Green. In the inter-war period she also became involved in assisting Italian and Jewish refugees and in supporting the republican cause in Spain. In the 1930s Sylvia continued to write extensively and also became involved in anti-fascist campaigns, organising the Women’s International Matteotti Committee. In the 1930s she also became interested in Ethiopia and took up the cause of Haile Selassie, founding the New Times and Ethiopia News in 1936. In 1939 she supported the Second World War on anti-fascist grounds. In 1956 Sylvia moved to Addis Ababa and continued to write and publish. She died in Sep 1960.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Sylvia Pankhurst's son, Richard, in August 2002 (2002/27). With additional deposits in 2003 ( 2003/53 and 2003/55).

Other Finding Aids

The Women's Library Catalogue

Related Material

The main body of Syliva Pankhurst’s papers, as inherited by her son, are held at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, although some still remain in private hands. The papers in Amsterdam have all been microfilmed and copies are available in The Women’s Library Reading Room.

Further papers are scattered and include correspondence with William Gillies, 1935-1937, held at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre, Manchester University; correspondence with the Independent Labour Party, 1914-1941, held at the British Library of Political and Economic Science; papers relating to her campaigns on Ethiopia and correspondence with the Society of Authors, 1931-1960, held at the British Library, Manuscript Collections; correspondence with FW Pethick-Lawrence, held at Cambridge University: Trinity College Library; letters to the Manchester Guardian, 1948-1952 held at Manchester University: John Rylands Library; letters to David Lloyd George, 1915, held at Oxford University: Bodleian Library; and correspondence with Ada Lois James, held at State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

Geographical Names