Obituary Rita Pankhurst

It is with great sadness that we have learned of Rita Pankhurst’s passing.

Rita Pankhurst, notable academic and women’s rights activist, and widow of Richard Pankhurst OBE (1927-2017), passed away at her home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 30 th May, 2019, aged 92. Rita leaves daughter Helen, son Alula, and grandchildren.

The funeral was held on 4 th June in Selassie Cathedral where Rita’s late husband also is buried.

Rita’s mother-in-law, British suffragette campaigner, artist, writer, and champion of Ethiopia, Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) was accorded a state funeral
attended by Emperor Haile Selassie in the same Cathedral, almost sixty years before.

In Sylvia’s declining years, Rita supervised a special diet for Sylvia whose digestive system suffered as a result of hunger strike and brutal force feeding in
Holloway Prison during the women’s suffrage campaign.

In Britain during the 1980s, Rita was appointed Head of Library Services to the City of London Polytechnic.  In this capacity Rita was instrumental in acquiring the Fawcett Library which contained women’s suffrage campaign records. The Fawcett collection served as the nucleus for the internationally renowned Women’s Library, now in the custodianship of the London School of Economics.

V. Irene Cockroft June 2019

Photographic credits:

Richard and Rita Pankhurst photo: © David Cockroft, London 2008

Rita Pankhurst photo: © V. Irene Cockroft, London 2010:
Rita Pankhurst with maquette for Sylvia Pankhurst statue commissioned by the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee.
Richard and Rita Pankhurst visited SIGL during Irene’s presidential term when the charity supported was the Women’s Fistula Hospital at Addis Ababa.