Emmeline Pankhurst statue MUST GO! Anger at ‘WWI bullying of thousands of young men’

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The Fathers4Justice group, which campaigns for men to be treated equally with parental access and divorce, has pointed out that the feminist icon Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel were leading members of the White Feather Campaign. In contrast her younger daughter Sylvia was a prominent pacifist. Founded by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald and the prominent author Mrs Humphry Ward in August 1914, the White Feather Campaign saw hundreds of thousands of young men harassed and publicly pillaried for not going to fight in the trenches on the Western front even if they were in reserved occupations.

Mrs Pankhurst’s statue is in Victoria Tower Gardens next to Parliament and F4J plan to lay a wreath of white feathers next to it to remember the victims of the campaign of intimidation against young men.

Matt O’Connor, founder of the campaign group Fathers4Justice, commented: “The white feather movement is an appalling episode in our history, although largely ignored, or forgotten. Thousands of men, some already suffering from mental and physical injuries sustained in war were publicly shamed by Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes by being labelled cowards and unpatriotic.

“Why they did this is unclear, but some have suggested it was a desperate attempt by Pankhurst to curry favour with those in power.

“The result of her actions is not in dispute, hundreds, possibly thousands of men were humiliated into joining or re-joining the fighting, even those who already bore the scars of conflict. Many of them would never return home to their families, or country they loved.”

Mr O’Connor concluded: “As we continue the debate about how important public figures with a dark past are remembered, Emmeline Pankhurst must be included. Her role in securing votes for women, must not blind us to the blood of innocents on her hands.

“This is why we are calling on the Government and Westminster City Council to remove this statue of a controversial and divisive figure, placing it in a museum, where her record both good and ill can be explained and set in context. At the same time the lives of all those men who died as a result of her actions and can be remembered.

“F4J will be repeating our demands next month when we hold a memorial to remember the many white feather victims. We hope to be joined by members of the Women’s and Equalities Committee and other Parliamentarians who will be invited to join us in laying a wreath, highlighting the darker side of the suffragette movement and the lives it cost.”

Militant feminists led by Mrs Pankhurst and her elder daughter joined the White Feather Campaign which got its name for the white feathers handed to young men signifying cowardice.

They even harassed off duty soldiers who were recovering from their war wounds.

One example, Private Ernest Atkins, who was on leave from the Western Front was riding a tram when he was presented with a white feather by a girl sitting behind him.

He reportedly said: “Certainly I’ll take your feather back to the boys at Passchendaele. I’m in civvies because people think my uniform might be lousy, but if I had it on I wouldn’t be half as lousy as you.”

Private Norman Demuth, who had been discharged from the British Army after he had been wounded in 1916, received numerous white feathers after he returned from the Western Front.

In Forgotten Voices of the Great War, Demuth is quoted as saying: “Almost the last feather I received was on a bus. I was sitting near the door when I became aware of two women on the other side talking at me, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh Lord, here we go again’. One lent forward and produced a feather and said, ‘Here’s a gift for a brave soldier. I took it and said,’Thank you very much- I wanted one of those.’

“Then I took my pipe out of my pocket and put this feather down the stem and worked it in a way I’ve never worked a pipe cleaner before. When it was filthy I pulled it out and said, ‘You know, we didn’t get these in the trenches’, and handed it back to her. She instinctively put out her hand and took it, so there she was sitting with this filthy pipe cleaner in her hand and all the other people on the bus began to get indignant.

“Then she dropped it and got up to get out, but we were nowhere near a stopping place and the bus went on quite a long way while she got well and truly barracked by the rest of the people on the bus. I sat back and laughed like mad.”

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