Christabel and Emmeline had tensions over tactics with the other Pankhursts: why was that?
In October 1912, when the vote had still not been granted, Christabel and Emmeline decided to escalate the scale of militancy, which would include damage to property. This was a reaction to the violence the suffragettes had encountered on 18 November 1910 when, on a peaceful demonstration, they were treated with exceptional brutality by the police as they tried to push them back from reaching Parliament Square. Many of the assaults on the women, on ‘Black Friday’ as it became known, were of a sexual nature. The injured women said to Emmeline Pankhurst – what was the point of suffering damage to their bodies when protesting peacefully if the smashing of a window brought about a quicker arrest without physical assault.
Thus window smashing was engaged in, as well as attacks on pillar boxes and setting fire to empty buildings, as a way to force the Liberal Government of the day to give women the vote. Throughout this campaign, both Emmeline and Christabel emphasised that there should be no danger to human life. However, both Sylvia and Adela, the youngest Pankhurst daughter, disagreed with this escalation in vandalism. Since Sylvia allied her East London Federation of the Suffragettes to the socialist movement, contrary to WSPU rules, she was expelled from the WSPU in 1914.
Emmeline also thought, erroneously, that the unhappy Adela was planning to establish a rival organisation to the WSPU and so suggested to her that she start a new life in Australia. Adela welcomed the proposal as a way to get out of a difficult situation. So the WSPU’s policy caused rifts in the Pankhurst family. No exceptions could be made for relatives. The same rules that applied to the membership applied to sisters and daughters.