Looking for things to do in Manchester? Explore Manchester’s feminist history by visiting Emmeline Pankhurst’s birthplace, the statue commemorating the legendary suffragette and the site of the first public women’s suffrage meeting.
Manchester: home of football, Corrie and rain. Right? Well, yes, but the jewel in its tourism crown is its feminist history. The city was home to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst – born in Moss Side in 1858 – and the site of many of the movement’s key moments.
It may be over 100 years since those renegade women marched on these cobbles, but it feels like the right time to retrace their steps.
Below, we’ve curated the ultimate feminist history tour of Manchester.
The Pankhurst Centre, Nelson Street
Once Emmeline Pankhurst’s home, The Pankhurst Centre was where the first meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union was held – you’ll see the slogan ‘Deeds Not Words’ embroidered on a cushion in the living room.
Being in the place where women changed the course of history is extraordinary, and though there are only three rooms, it packs a punch, with a wealth of reading material and artefacts, plus a short propaganda film to watch.
Emmeline Pankhurst statue, St Peter’s Square
After checking out the Pankhurst Centre, walk to St Peter’s Square, site of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, when 18 protestors were killed by the army. (If you don’t fancy the 30 minute stroll, hop on the number 50 bus.)
A statue of Pankhurst called ‘Our Emmeline’, created by Hazel Reeves, was unveiled in St Peter’s Square in December. It’s one of only two statues in Manchester to commemorate a woman (the other features Queen Victoria). Reeves chose to depict the suffragette delivering a speech, standing on a chair with her arm outstretched.
Central Library, St Peter’s Square
Also on St Peter’s Square is the majestic Central Library (the round building flanked by grand stone pillars). Head through the glass doors and follow the signs to the Town Hall Extension, where you’ll find Charlotte Newson’s poster ‘Women Like You’.
This huge photo mosaic is a portrait of Pankhurst, made up of 10,000 images of doctors, mothers, politicians, broadcasters, entrepreneurs and more from all over the world. Created in 2010, it was the first contemporary artwork to celebrate Pankhurst’s achievements.
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street
You won’t want to retrace the suffragettes’ steps exactly at Manchester Art Gallery. On 3 April 1913, Annie Briggs, Evelyn Manesta and Lillian Forrester vandalised 13 of the gallery’s “biggest and most valuable pictures” in protest at the imprisonment of Pankhurst.
One day previously, the suffragette leader had been sentenced to three years’ penal servitude for inciting her followers to burn down buildings. Briggs, Manesta and Forrester did not deny the charges against them but rejected the idea that they were guilty. “I do not stand here as a malicious person but as a patriot – a political offender,” Forrester told the jury. She was sentenced to three months in prison, while Manesta was given one month behind bars. Briggs was acquitted.
Many of the paintings attacked by the suffragettes are still on display at the gallery, including Arthur Hacker’s Syrinx, Sibylla Delphica by Edward Burne-Jones and Astarte Syriaca by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. You can also see moody portraits by Isabel Dacre and Annie Swynnerton, suffragettes who founded the Manchester Society of Women Artists in 1876.
Fancy checking out work by an acclaimed modern female artist? Take a turn around the Halima Cassell exhibition, which features some of the UK-based ceramicist and sculptor’s most awe-inspiring work.
When you’ve had your cultural fill, fill your belly in the Gallery Café, where awardwinning chef Mary-Ellen McTague has created a tasty menu. We recommend a sourdough toastie with dry-cured Ayrshire bacon and slow-roast tomatoes – go heavy on the homemade ketchup.
People’s History Museum, New Court Street
Your toastie high will fuel the short stroll from Home Sweet Home to the People’s History Museum, which has all manner of radical paraphernalia.
In Main Gallery One, you’ll find a display honouring Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women – one of the earliest known examples of feminist philosophy in the world – as well as a section all about the campaign for women’s suffrage.
This includes an original Pank-a-Squith board game, which allows players to guide a suffragette from home (via force-feeding and police violence) to PM Herbert Asquith in Parliament.
Cow Hollow Hotel, Newton Street
For somewhere to rest your radical head, check out the Northern Quarter’s Cow Hollow Hotel, with a mural (Serenity by SNIK) representing the female struggle for equality emblazoned on its exterior wall.
Radisson Blu Edwardian, Peter Street
Alternatively, book the Radisson Blu Edwardian on Peter Street, previously the Free Trade Hall, site of the first public women’s suffrage meeting. This is also where Christabel Pankhurst was arrested for challenging Winston Churchill on the subject of women’s suffrage.
Later, there’s excellent dancing to be had across the street in Albert’s Schloss, where tables have ‘push for prosecco’ buttons. Head to Home Sweet Home on Edge Street the morning after for their Oreo-M-F-G pancakes.
The Northern Quarter highlights
As luck would have it, you’re now in the Northern Quarter, Manchester’s most beloved bohemian area. On the side of Afflecks Palace, renowned indoor market of indie boutiques, you’ll find a mosaic of Pankhurst, affectionately nicknamed ‘Panksy’.
Around the corner, The Outhouse project takes over Stevenson Square with a rotation of artists graffitiing masterpieces. Best place to view all this? In warmer weather (it does happen), the patio at sherry bar Flok is a treat.
Otherwise, grab a window seat and a Six of One (Tanqueray gin, crème de cassis, passion fruit and lemon) at deli-bar The Corner Boy. Cheers!
This article was originally published in Stylist issue 402, 6 February 2018. It has been updated throughout.
Words: Daisy Jackson, Moya Crockett.
Images: Getty Images. Illustration of The Pankhurst Centre: Garry Walton at meiklejohn.co.uk