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‘I’m more than just that heritage’ – Helen Pankhurst readies herself for chancellor role

PUBLISHED: 05:30 06 December 2018

Helen Pankhurst says that she is more than just her heritage Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

Helen Pankhurst says that she is more than just her heritage Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

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Her ancestors fought for British women’s suffrage and soon she will become the first chancellor of the University of Suffolk.

Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, will begin the momentous role on Thursday, December 20 – becoming the university’s first chancellor since it became independent in 2016.

Ms Pankhurst has spoken at length about her plans for the university, mainly her desires to continue her great grandmother’s struggle for societal equality.

While she is happy to see herself as the descendant of such an esteemed historical figure, Ms Pankhurst hopes that it can be used to benefit this generation.

She said: “The great thing about being a descendant is that people are interested in me because of that heritage.

Helen Pankhurst will take up the role on Thursday, December 20 Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSAHelen Pankhurst will take up the role on Thursday, December 20 Picture: VICTORIA PERTUSA

“You are seeing somebody and you are thinking about the past, I remind people of the history.

“All of that is really powerful but I’m more than just that heritage.

“I’m the conduit between that heritage and the future, I want to use that to have conversations with young people about the equality they face.”

While her grandmother Emmeline was famous for leading part of the British Suffrage movement which would eventually see women granted the vote in 1918, Ms Pankhurst is a revered figure in her own right.

The 'Imprisonment Medal' awarded to Emmeline Pankhurst (Helen's great-grandmother) by the Women's Social and Political Union, lays on top of a photograph of the Suffragette leader as she is arrested outside Buckingham Palace while attempting to petition the king, on display at Spink Auction House in London, Thursday March 4, 2004.  The medal, inscribed H24, standing for Hospital Wing 2, cell 4 where she spent her three month sentence, is expected to fetch £30,000 when it goes under the hammer on April 30 Picture: THE PRESS ASSOCIATIONThe 'Imprisonment Medal' awarded to Emmeline Pankhurst (Helen's great-grandmother) by the Women's Social and Political Union, lays on top of a photograph of the Suffragette leader as she is arrested outside Buckingham Palace while attempting to petition the king, on display at Spink Auction House in London, Thursday March 4, 2004. The medal, inscribed H24, standing for Hospital Wing 2, cell 4 where she spent her three month sentence, is expected to fetch £30,000 when it goes under the hammer on April 30 Picture: THE PRESS ASSOCIATION

She is the trustee of several global women’s charities and even formed her own organisation the Olympic Suffragettes following the 2012 Olympics in London, which campaigns on a number of women’s rights issues.

She also published a book covering the suffrage movement called ‘Deeds not Words: The Story Of Women’s Rights Then And Now’ in February of this year.

Her continued pursuit of equality will be a big part of her plans for the university.

She said: “I think at times it seems like a ceremonial position, I need to be there for the important times for graduation and other events but it is also about representing the university that has such a strong link to its community.

“Right across the board there is still work to be done in any institution, including the university, to encourage equality.

“I hope that we can start breaking some gender stereotypes present in society today for both men and women.”

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