Rita Pankhurst, international advocate for women’s rights, dies aged 92

© V. Irene Cockroft, London 2010

Rita Pankhurst, notable academic and activist, and widow of Richard Pankhurst OBE (1927-2017), passed away at her home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 30th May, 2019, aged 92.

Rita leaves daughter Helen, son Alula, and grandchildren.

The funeral was held on 4th June in Selassie Cathedral where Rita’s late husband is also 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 British 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:
Rita Pankhurst photo: © V. Irene Cockroft, London 2010