Leading equality campaigner Helen Pankhurst starts role as university chancellor
- Credit: UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLK
The great-granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, who led the movement to win the right for women to vote, has started her position as chancellor at the University of Suffolk.
Dr Helen Pankhurst, a prolific writer, women’s right activist and academic, said she was honoured to begin her new role this week – becoming the university’s first chancellor since it became independent in 2016.
Her appointment comes 100 years after women aged over 30 were able to vote for the first time under the 1918 Representation of the People Act.
As a special event was held at Holy Trinity Church, in Ipswich, to welcome her to the role, Dr Pankhurst said: “It is a tremendous privilege and honour. I hope to do the post justice.
“I think it’s important that the university has symbolically chosen in me somebody who is not just a woman, but somebody who is representing the idea of women’s right, not just in the past but in terms of ongoing work.”
Dr Pankhurst said the fact the University of Suffolk is a relatively new higher education institution means “it can learn from the past and can adapt and do things in a different way”.
She added: “My role as the first chancellor is symbolic - it is about the idea, the vision of the university.
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“I think the vision, for me, is about persistence, hard work, having an idea and sticking with it. It is about the power of individuals but also about how important it is to come together to effect change and that we can.”
Dr Pankhurst said she also hopes to use the role to help break gender stereotypes present for both men and women in today’s world, continuing her great grandmother’s struggle for societal equality.
“This county has had some radical women involved across the different schisms within the suffragist and suffragette movement which is testament to the fact that the county can be quite radical and can make a difference,” she said.
“Let’s hope that in the coming decade and in the coming centuries we still find and see many more women, and all people, rising up and ensuring the world is a better place.”
Vice-chancellor of the University of Suffolk, Professor Helen Langton, said: “We are extremely proud that the University of Suffolk has installed Dr Helen Pankhurst as our chancellor and look forward to seeing her act as a great ambassador and advocate for our university and our region.”