East London remembers plight of Suffragettes as festival comes to the capital

To celebrate the centennial of the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS), a festival is set to take place in August.

Founded by Sylvia Pankhurst in 1914, the independent social movement fought for British women to gain suffrage, a right withheld to women in many other European countries too. One hundred years later, the Suffragettes’ inspirational fight is to be remembered at the East London Suffragette Festival.

The event, which takes in Bethnal Green, Bow and Stepney Green, and runs between Friday August 1 and Sunday August 10, is headlined by a free all-day celebration at Toynbee Hall in Tower Hamlets on August 9, londonist.com reports. As well as giving the public an opportunity to learn about inequality in the East End and the Suffragette movement, there will also be talks, workshops and storytelling catering for children.

Other activities taking place throughout the festival include an art exhibition showcasing the lives of young women in the East End during World War One, the Women’s Activism Film Night at Four Corners in Bethnal Green on Friday August 1, as well as a free outdoor picnic at the former Victoria Park Cemetery on Sunday August 3.

Mary Davis, author of ‘Sylvia Pankhurst: A Life in Radical Politics’, told eastlondonlines.co.uk: “[Pankhurst] saw the relationship between oppression and exploitation early on. She wanted working class women to be active in the fight for the vote.”

But despite her contempt for authority (Pankhurst was the most frequently arrested woman in the party), she remained a pacifist.

“If she was to witness all of this celebrating of World War One we do today she’d be turning in her grave,” Davis said. “She saw it as an imperialist war.”