Born in Manchester into a political family, Pankhurst became involved in women’s suffrage from an early age. She married a barrister renowned for his support of the cause and he supported her interest in politics wholly. When he died in 1898, she founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), an all-women suffrage advocacy organisation dedicated to "deeds, not words". This group set itself apart from political parties and quickly became notorious for smashing windows and assaulting police officers during protests.
Pankhurst, her daughters and many members of the group spent time in prison where they held hunger strikes to protest against the conditions. She was arrested so often simply for appearing in public that the Union employed a jujitsu-trained bodyguard solely to look after her and protect her from police. Actions by the group often included arson attacks, meaning that tensions between the WSPU, the government and the police were highly strained as the organisation continued its criminal activities in protestation against inequality.
Following the passing of the Act, Pankhurst transformed the WSPU machinery into the Women's Party, which was dedicated to promoting women's equality in public life. Eventually, she would successfully stand for election, though she died within a year of taking office. Until her death, she continued to campaign for further equalities and eventually, the minimum age for voters was equalised between the sexes to 21.