Emmeline’s radical left-wing daughter Sylvia Pankhurst became deeply involved in the Ethiopian cause following its invasion by Italy in 1935- she would later be recognised as an honorary Ethiopian, and eventually given a state funeral. She also became an avid writer on Ethiopian culture culminating in the publishing of her work ‘Ethiopia, a Cultural History’.
Triggered by Mussolini’s invasion of the country in 1935, Sylvia Pankhurst set up a weekly journal campaigning for, and championing, the Ethiopian cause. The paper, and her passion for Ethiopia and its people, long outlasted the Italian occupation, and she spent the last four years of her life living, at the emperor’s invitation, in Addis Ababa with her son Richard and his wife Rita – Helen’s parents.
The family lives in that same house today, and Helen is in Addis Ababa to meet some of the few locals still alive who knew Sylvia, and to understand her legacy in Ethiopia: she was the first non-Ethiopian to be granted a state funeral, as well as having a street and café named after her. Helen spends time with her mother, Rita, who remembers a woman as energetic and committed to the causes she was fighting for in her 70s as the suffragette and Communist activist that most people in the UK identify her name with. Helen also brings in the other dominant cause in Sylvia’s life, as well as in her own – women’s rights – meeting young rural women fighting the same fight in Ethiopia today.