The Pankhurst Centre and Manchester University NHS Trust mark history with the exchange of a suffragette sash

A small but significant ceremony has taken place between the Pankhurst Centre and Manchester University NHS Trust that reflects an important historical agreement between the two organisations.

The Pankhurst Centre sits on the trust’s Oxford Road Campus, the largest healthcare and research campus in Europe, and each year pays a peppercorn rent in the form of a suffragette sash to its landlord. The sash was presented to Chairman of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Kathy Cowell OBE DL, by Chair of the Pankhurst Trust, Caroline Roberts-Cherry, and CEO of the Pankhurst Trust, Gail Heath.

The ceremony has taken place for over 30 years, with a handmade sash in the distinct colours of the suffragette movement, white, purple and green, exchanged on each occasion. This year’s presentation is particularly poignant as it marks 120 years since the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), who would become known as the suffragettes, was founded. Today you can visit the museum at the Pankhurst Centre and find out more about the inspiring story of the Pankhurst family and stand in the parlour where this first meeting took place and history was made.

The Pankhurst Centre in the grounds of MRI get free rent each year in return they present the NHS with a suffragette sash. Pictured Chairman, Kathy Cowell at the Emmeline Pankhurst Statue in Manchester with Gail Heath CEO Pankhurst Trust and

The presentation took place under the watchful eye of Emmeline Pankhurst’s statue, which stands in St Peter’s Square, where it was unveiled in 2018 on the centenary of the first women achieving the vote. 

Caroline Roberts-Cherry, Chair of Pankhurst Trust, says, “It was an honour as Chair of the Pankhurst Trust to hand over our rent, a suffragette sash, to our landlord, MFT. It’s always inspiring being in the presence of Emmeline’s statute and Kathy and I reflected on her bravery and vision.”

I’m very proud that our trust is home to the Pankhurst Centre, an institution built by women, for women, which has a tremendous historical legacy and continues vital work today

Kathy Cowell OBE DL, Chairman of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust

“The sash represents an ever-constant call to equality – as women we have come such a long way, but the journey is not yet complete; Emmeline is pointing off into the distance, as that is where we still need to go, ahead to full equality.”

The peppercorn rent is a reflection of MFT’s support for the Pankhurst Trust, which includes the two working together to develop a maintenance plan that will support the challenges faced in maintaining a Grade II* listed building and allow them to continue sharing the story of the Pankhurst family and inspire visitors to action.

Gail Heath, CEO of The Pankhurst Trust, says, “Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters set out to change the course of history, all from a small house in radical Manchester, the Pankhurst Centre. She would be proud to know that the activism she inspired continues to this day through our heritage and equalities work and our mission to end violence against women and girls through Manchester Women’s Aid.”

“The relationship we have with MFT, means that together we’re working on a maintenance plan, so that we can keep the centre functioning for years to come. It’s vitally important to preserve it. That’s the exciting bit of our journey now.”

62 Nelson Street was the home of Emmeline Pankhurst from 1898 to 1907 and is where on 10 October 1903 she invited a small group of women to meet to take forward their campaign to win the vote. They were to form the Women’s Social and Political Union under the motto, Deeds, not words. Now the house, together with its neighbour number 60, is Grade II* listed and operates as the Pankhurst Centre museum and the headquarters of Manchester Women’s Aid, which is also a part of the Pankhurst Trust

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