Articles in this series:
Series: Sylvia Pankhurst
Sylvia Pankhurst, Friend of Ethiopia, Statue Proposed
Planning has begun to erect a statue in London in the honour of Sylvia Pankhurst, the former British Suffragette, who devoted the last twenty years of her life to the cause of Ethiopian independence and progress.
Sylvia Pankhurst’s interest in Ethiopia began in 1934 at the time of the Wal Wal incident, which the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini used as a pretext for the invasion of Ethiopia the following year. She wrote extensively to the British and international press regarding the issue. Later, in 1936, she founded “New Times and Ethiopia News”, an anti-fascist weekly newspaper in London, which espoused the Ethiopian cause, and advocated effective League of Nations action to halt the Fascist invasion. She later succeeded in establishing contact with the Ethiopian Patriots, published first-hand news of their continued resistance to the invader, and issued several Amharic editions of her paper to be smuggled into Italian-occupied Ethiopia.
After Mussolini’s entry into the European war she agitated, against the British Foreign Office, for the immediate recognition of Ethiopia as an Ally, and opposed efforts to partition the country, or to place it under foreign tutelage. She also raised funds for Ethiopia’s first modern teaching hospital, the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital, and wrote numerous books and articles, on Ethiopia and the former Italian colonies, most notably the weighty tome “Ethiopia. A Cultural History”, which included an introduction by the Orientalist cleric and scholar Canon Douglas.
Emigrating to Ethiopia in 1956, she replaced “New Times and Ethiopia News”, which she had edited for twenty years, by a new journal, “Ethiopia Observer”, and was involved with the then Kantiba, or Lord Mayor of Addis Ababa, Dejazmach Dr Zaude Gabre Sellassie, in founding one of Ethiopia’s first voluntary societies, the Social Service Society. She continued these activities until her death in 1960, when she was buried within the precincts of Sellassie, or Holy Trinity, Cathedral.
Two sites have been proposed for her London statue. One is near Parliament, in the vicinity of a statue to Sylvia Pankhurst’s mother Emmeline Pankhurst; the other site is in Trafalgar Square, where Sylvia addressed, and organised, many public meetings in support of Ethiopia, and before that, other causes dear to her heart. Anyone needing further information, or wishing to support the project, should contact [email protected],org. The project’s organisers include a dozen Members of the British Parliament, and ten Trade Unions, as well as the National Assembly of Women, the Co-operative Women’s Guild, and the United Nations Women’s Advisory Council.