Adela Pankhurst

Adela Constantia Mary Pankhurst Walsh (19 June 1885 – 23 May 1961) was a British-Australian suffragette, political organiser, and co-founder of both the Communist Party of Australia and the Australia First Movement.

Adela Walsh
Adela Walsh (taken before 1921)
Personal details
Adela Constantia Mary Pankhurst

(1885-06-19)19 June 1885
Chorlton upon Medlock, Lancashire, England
Died23 May 1961(1961-05-23) (aged 75)
Wahroonga, Sydney, Australia
Political partyIndependent Labour Party
Communist Party of Australia
Australia First Movement
Spouse(s)Thomas Walsh
ParentsRichard Pankhurst
Emmeline Goulden
RelativesChristabel Pankhurst (sister)
Sylvia Pankhurst (sister)
Richard Pankhurst (nephew)
Helen Pankhurst (great-niece)
Alula Pankhurst (great-nephew)

Early lifeEdit

Pankhurst was born on 19 June 1885 in Manchester, England, into a politicised family: her father, Richard Pankhurst, was a socialist and candidate for Parliament, and her mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, and sisters, Sylvia and Christabel, were leaders of the British suffragette movement. Her mother was of Manx descent.[1] Adela attended the all-woman Studley Horticultural College in Warwickshire, and Manchester High School for Girls.


As a teenager, Adela became involved in the militant Women's Social and Political Union founded by her mother and sisters. In November 1909 she joined a protest that interrupted a talk by Winston Churchill at his constituency in Dundee. She was arrested along with Helen Archdale, Catherine Corbett and Maud Joachim.[2] Adela had slapped a policeman who was trying to evict her from the building. Although Adela went on hunger strike there, she was not force-fed as prison governor and medical supervisor assessed her 'heart's action as violent and laboured"[3]

Suffragettes Adela Pankhurst, Jessie and Annie Kenney at Eagle House in 1910

Eagle House near Bath in Somerset had become an important refuge for suffragettes who had been released from prison. Mary Blathwayt's parents planted trees there between April 1909 and July 1911 to commemorate the achievements of suffragettes including Adela's mother and sister, Christabel as well as Annie Kenney, Charlotte Despard, Millicent Fawcett and Lady Lytton.[4] The trees were known as "Annie's Arboreatum" after Annie Kenney.[5][6] There was also a "Pankhurst Pond" within the grounds.[7]

Adela was invited to Eagle House in 1909 and 1910. She planted a Himalayan Cedar on 3 July 1910. A plaque was made and her photograph was recorded again by Colonel Linley Blathwayt.[8]

Her mother's favourite was Christabel and the two of them took the Women's Social and Political Union as their own organisation. They fell out with many of their leading volunteers and supporters and this included Sylvia Pankhurst and Adela. Both of them believed in socialism whereas Emmeline and Christabel were pushing for the vote for middle-class women. Sylvia was ejected from the party and she set up her own splinter group in East London. Christabel is reported to have said to Sylvia "“I would not care if you were multiplied by a hundred, but one of Adela is too many.” Adela was given £20, a ticket to Australia and a letter introducing her to Vida Goldstein.[9] Adela was among the first group of suffragettes to go on hunger strike when in prison. She was being targeted by the police, as a high-profile activist. Adela Pankhurst had been given a Hunger Strike Medal 'for Valour' by WSPU.


Adela emigrated to Australia in 1914 following estrangement from her family and frequent incarceration. Adela's experience of activism enabled her to be recruited during World War I as an organiser for the Women's Peace Army in Melbourne by Vida Goldstein.[10] Pankhurst wrote a book called Put Up the Sword, penned a number of anti-war pamphlets,[9] and addressed public meetings, speaking against war and conscription. In 1915, With Cecilia John from the Women's Peace Army, she toured Australia, establishing branches of the Women's Peace Army. In 1916 she traveled through New Zealand addressing large crowds, and again toured New South Wales and Queensland arguing the importance of feminist opposition to militarism.[11] In August 1917, Pankhurst was arrested during a march against rising food prices in Melbourne, which had been part of a series of sometimes violent demonstrations, unusual for the time in that they were spearheaded by women.[12] British suffragette Louie (Louisa) Cullen also now in Melbourne, was among the 5000+ who signed a petition to the Australian Prime Minister for her release. In September 1917, she married Tom Walsh of the Federated Seamen's Union of Australasia, with whom she had a son and five daughters. In 1920, Pankhurst became a founding member of the Communist Party of Australia, from which she was later expelled.

She became disillusioned with communism and founded the anti-communist Australian Women's Guild of Empire in 1927.[9] In 1941 Pankhurst became one of the founding members of the far-right nationalistic Australia First Movement. She visited Japan in 1939, and was arrested and interned in March 1942 for her advocacy of peace with Japan. She was released in October.[10]

Tom Walsh died in 1943; afterwards, Pankhurst withdrew from public life. In 1960, she converted to Roman Catholicism.[13] She died on 23 May 1961, and was buried according to Catholic rites.[10]

Posthumous recognitionEdit

Her name and picture (and those of 58 other women's suffrage supporters) are on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London, unveiled in 2018.[14][15][16]

Pankhurst Crescent, in the Canberra suburb of Gilmore, is named in her honour.[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Bartley, p. 16; Liddington and Norris, p. 74.
  2. ^ "Maud Joachim". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  3. ^ Atkinson, Diane (2018). Rise up, women! : the remarkable lives of the suffragettes. London: Bloomsbury. p. 179. ISBN 9781408844045. OCLC 1016848621.
  4. ^ Historic England. "Eagle House (1115252)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  5. ^ Hammond, Cynthia Imogen (2017). Architects, Angels, Activists and the City of Bath, 1765-1965 ": Engaging with Women's Spatial Interventions in Buildings and Landscape. Routledge. ISBN 9781351576123.
  6. ^ Hannam, June (Winter 2002). "Suffragette Photographs" (PDF). Regional Historian (8).
  7. ^ "Book of the Week: A Nest of Suffragettes in Somerset". Woman and her Sphere. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Suffragettes Adela Pankhurst, Jessie and Annie Kenney 1910, Blathwayt, Col Linley". Bath in Time, Images of Bath online. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Sparrow, Jeff (24 December 2015). "'Wayward suffragette' Adela Pankhurst and her remarkable Australian Life". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Hogan, Susan. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  11. ^ Outskirts online journal Volume 39, accessed 28 February 2020
  12. ^ Smart, Judith (May 1986). "Feminists, food and the cost of living demonstrations in Melbourne August-September 1917". Labour History (50): 113–131. doi:10.2307/27508786. JSTOR 27508786.
  13. ^ Damousi, Joy (April 1993). "The Enthusiasms of Adela Pankhurst Walsh". Australian Historical Studies. 25 (100): 424. doi:10.1080/10314619308595924.
  14. ^ "Historic statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett unveiled in Parliament Square". 24 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  15. ^ Topping, Alexandra (24 April 2018). "First statue of a woman in Parliament Square unveiled". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  16. ^ Saul, Heather (24 April 2018). "Millicent Fawcett statue unveiling: the women and men whose names will be on the plinth". iNews. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  17. ^ "Australian Capital Territory National Memorials Ordinance 1928 Determination — Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. Periodic (National : 1977–2011), p.20". Trove. 15 May 1987. Retrieved 7 February 2020.

Further readingEdit

  • Verna Coleman Adela Pankhurst: The Wayward Suffragette 1885-1961 Melbourne University Press, 1996
  • Joy Damousi, "The Enthusiasms of Adela Pankhurst Walsh", Australian Historical Studies, April 1993, pp. 422–436
  • Anne Summers, "The Unwritten History of Adela Pankhurst Walsh", in Elizabeth Windschuttle (editor), Women, Class and History, Fontana / Collins, 1980, pp. 388–402
  • Deborah Jordan, "Adela Pankhurst, Peace Negotiator: World War 1, Queensland", Outskirts, 2018, 39, pp. 1–20

External linksEdit