Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst

Sylvia Pankhurst
Image: Wikipedia.

Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst was born in 1882 and attended Manchester School of Art, winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in 1900. In 1907 she painted a series of pictures based on a tour of places of employment of working women. This tour confirmed to her a need to be more actively involved in women’s rights, and she gave up the fine arts to pursue such activities.

Sylvia, as she preferred to be known, had a range of interests – such as suffragism, the Labour Party, communism, anti-war campaigning and support for soldiers’ wives during war-time. Over the years she became distant and eventually estranged from other Pankhurst family members because of her political views and personal matters – she had a child by the Italian anarchist Silvio Corio, but refused to marry him, causing a rift with her mother. Later, following campaigning against Italian colonialism in Ethiopia, she became involved in development issues in that country and moved there in 1956 with her son, and died in Ethiopia in 1960. She was granted a state funeral by Emperor Haile Selassie.

She was clearly a gifted artist, although her works are generally rather plain in appearance.


Seated woman.

Sylvia Pankhurst - seated old lady

Sylvia Pankhurst - seated old lady (face)

Photos: J. Russell.


Italian street scene.

Italian Street Scene

Image: www.sylviapankhurst.com.


Boot factory fitters (1907).

Sylvia Pankhurst - Boot Factory Fitters (1907)

Photo: J. Russell.


Removing excess glaze (1907).

Sylvia Pankhurst - Removing Excess Glaze (1907)

Photo: J. Russell.


Keir Hardie (1909 or earlier)

Keir Hardie

Image: National Portrait Gallery.


Self-portrait in prison dress (1907).

Self-portrait in prison dress (1907)

Image: Museum of London.


Study of an arm (1911).

Sylvia Pankhurst - study (1911)

Photo: J. Russell.

This study was a beginning for what would have been a larger work, but at this point Sylvia decided to abandon fine art as a career and turned her attention full-time to campaigning.


  • Seated woman, Boot Factory Fitters, Removing Excess Glaze and Study of an arm were photographed in April, 2018, at the Painting Light and Hope exhibition (23 Feb 2018 – 6 Jan 2019), Manchester Art Gallery.