Episode 3:

The curious lives of
the Pankhurst sisters

Differences that led to
decades of silence

The Pankhurst name is synonymous with the struggle for women’s suffrage. It represents two generations of women who fought for the right to vote. Yet while Emmeline and her daughters Christabel, Sylvia and Adela may have shared the same name, they did not share quite the same politics. The result was an irreconcilable split in the family.

In episode three of It’s About Time, Sir Tony Robinson recounts why this separation led to the sisters not speaking for decades. Personal accounts tell of first-child favouritism, social divisions and differing political ideologies. Yet a letter after WWII begins a process of reconciliation after almost 40 years that sadly never quite reaches its conclusion.

In fact, all three sisters would be buried in very different corners of the globe without having seen each other in years. Sylvia went to Ethiopia to support Emperor Haile Selassie and is buried in Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, in a section reserved for war patriots.

Mother’s favourite Christabel passed away in 1958 and rests at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery in Santa Monica. While Adela – the ‘wayward suffragette’ – passed away in New South Wales in 1961, some 8,000 miles from where middle sister Sylvia had been buried a year before.

So with all the squabbling, renounced political allegiances and personal issues, what was the real story behind the separation of the most famous of all Suffragettes? Listen to episode three of It’s About Time as Sir Tony reveals just what makes the lives of the Pankhursts such a compelling tale.

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