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Suffragettes100: Sylvia Pankhurst scandalised the neighbours

PUBLISHED: 15:00 04 February 2018

Prominent Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst lived in Woodford Green for 30 years. Picture: Eastside Community Heritage

Prominent Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst lived in Woodford Green for 30 years. Picture: Eastside Community Heritage

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A hundred years ago the first women won the vote, thanks to the fight and sacrifice of the suffragettes.

Sylvia Pankhurst leads marchers outside the House of Commons during protests against any proposal to return Eritrea and Somaliland to Italy.  Picture: PASylvia Pankhurst leads marchers outside the House of Commons during protests against any proposal to return Eritrea and Somaliland to Italy. Picture: PA

One of them, Sylvia Pankhurst, lived in Woodford Green for 30 years.

There is a blue plaque near her old home and a green opposite Woodford Tube station named after her.

Her mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, was one of the first suffragettes and in 1906, Sylvia started to work full-time for the Women’s Social and Political Union with her sister Christabel and their mother.

She founded the East London Federation of Suffragettes, which became the Women’s Suffrage Federation and then the Workers’ Socialist Federation.

In the 1920s, Woodford Green was still a rural Essex village – home to the gentry and well-heeled politicians, including future prime ministers.

But the arrival of Sylvia, with her anarchist Italian boyfriend, scandalised the area as they lived together without getting married, and had a son.

She broke away from the famous Women’s Social & Political Union to set up her own East London Federation of Suffragettes.

Originally run from Bow, Sylvia continued her work when she moved to Woodford Green in 1924.

With Silvio Corio, she went to live in Red Cottage at 126 High Road, opposite the Horse and Wells pub.

Her writing, campaigning with the suffragettes and work to improve working conditions continued unabated.

She invited everyone into her home, from refugees fleeing the fascists in Italy to political campaigners.

It became a centre of radical thought.

Three years after arriving in Woodford Green, their son Richard was born.

But despite the resentment from some neighbours, the couple seemed happy during their 30 years in Woodford Green.

While Sylvia wrote and travelled, Silvio served teas and refreshments at a café, and the couple started radical newspaper The New Times and Ethiopia News.

The fate of Ethiopia, which was being invaded by Mussolini’s fascist army, became one of Sylvia’s main campaign issues.

A stone war memorial she commissioned in reaction to his air attack on the country in 1932 is all that remains to mark where her cottage stood after it was pulled down for new houses in 1939.

In 1933, the couple moved to a much larger house called West Dene, in Charteris Road.

A blue plaque near their old home at Tamar Square flats commemorates her legacy and the small park opposite the station was renamed Pankhurst Green.

Silvio died in 1954 and Sylvia emigrated to Ethiopia at the invitation of Emperor Haile Selassie, where she died at the age of 78 in 1960.

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