A Suffragette in America

Katherine Connelly has edited previously unpublished notes by Sylvia Pankhurst about her trips to America. We were at the book launch in London.

Cover of A Suffragette in America

A Suffragette in America is a collection of Sylvia Pankhurst's writing on her visits to North America in 1911-12. Where the standard suffragette tours focused on courting members of America's social elite for money, Sylvia Pankhurst met working women and women of strike from New York to Nashville, Tennessee, where she spoke to a meeting of black women and learned more about the reality of American racism.

In Philadelphia and Chicago Sylvia met female prisoners, bringing to the meeting her own experience of prison and of hunger striking and being force-fed. Katherine included a photograph of one meeting which included Zelie Emerson (the fourth woman from the left), who would be such a support to Sylvia (the first woman from the left) in the East End of London.

Sylvia Pankhurst talking to prisoners

While there were many things which Sylvia admired about America, she was shocked by the dark underbelly of American society and found many parallels between it and Britain. This was captured very graphically in Sylvia's planned preface to her book on America, which Katherine read at the book launch. Sylvia had attended the funeral of the women garment workers in New York who died in a fire at the Triangle factory, when they were unable to escape from the upper floors because the fire doors were locked. It was this tragedy which led to the creation of International Women's day in Germany, and celebration of International Women's Day triggered the Russian revolution in 1917.

We include a video of Katherine reading Sylvia's words.

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