You Can Be ‘First In The Fight’ With People’s History Museum

An evening of conversation, creativity, tours and more inspired by the Manchester suffragette banner on 6 July
Emma Moore-Palmer
June 11, 2023

115 Years after it's first appearance alongside the inspirational Emmeline Pankhurst, People’s History Museum (PHM) is set to roll out the famous and revered Manchester  Suffragette Banner  to celebrate its key birthday, its history and the inspirational spirit that it continues to represent.

Helen Pankhurst, Emmeline's great-granddaughter will  be taking part in a special evening of celebration at PHM on Thursday 6 July (6.00pm  to 9.00pm), to mark the founding of the suffragette movement - and tickets have just been released.

‘Manchester: First in the Fight’ will be a unique opportunity to experience conversation, creativity and tours.  The evening will also provide the chance to explore one of the country’s most significant  suffragette objects and, of the hundreds of suffragette banners created, one of only a few to survive.

The Manchester Suffragette Banner (Image: People's History Museum)
The Manchester Suffragette Banner (Image: People's History Museum)

This meaningful and joyous evening will start with welcome drinks, followed by PHM gallery tours and suffragette craft activities, that will also help to raise funds for the museum.

As the evening progresses,  guests will gather in the Edwardian Engine Hall to hear from PHM’s Head of  Collections & Engagement, Jenny Mabbott, about the banner’s creation, why it was ‘First in the Fight’, its appearances, its disappearance and the subsequent campaign to bring it to the national museum of democracy.

Following Jenny's talk, everyone is invited to join the conversation as she chats to Helen Pankhurst, Helen Antrobus and Marzia Babakarkhail.

Throughout the evening the PHM shop will be open, with a whole array of suffragette-led products available, many of them exclusive to People’s History Museum and produced by artists and designers including Rickard Sisters, Clavis & Claustra, Magpie’s Daughter and The Hide Ranger. Tote bags, coasters, tea towels, badges, sticker  packs, pencils, jewellery and a variety of books are just part of the range.

Wine and soft drinks will be available from Open Kitchen Cafe & Bar, who will also be serving a selection of mezze style small plates. There will also be a raffle with donated prizes including tickets to Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World at The Lowry, From The City Of Pankhurst With Love print by Caroline Dyer,  Emmeline Pankhurst illustration by artist Nell Smith and a tour and afternoon tea at the Pankhurst Centre.

Some Of The Products Available in PHM Shop
Some Of The Products Available in PHM Shop

Manchester: First in the Fight’s radical women  

Helen Antrobus is a curator and historian specialising in 20th century social and political histories, currently Assistant National Curator for Cultural Landscapes at the National Trust. Her work strives to examine underexplored people’s histories, with a key focus on women, and their connections to place.

Helen Antrobus
Helen Antrobus

Her recent exhibition, Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature, co-curated with the V&A is currently touring the US. She previously curated the exhibition Represent! Voices 100 Years On at People’s History Museum (2018), soher return to the museum for this special event is most welcome. As a public historian Helen has appeared on shows including BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? and Secrets of the Museum, Channel 5’s In Colour series, and BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives. Her first book, First in the Fight: Twenty Women Who  Made Manchester was published in 2019.

Marzia Babakarkhail came to the UK in 2008 after being forced to flee her home first in Afghanistan, where she worked as a judge in a family court, and then Pakistan. In Afghanistan, as a reaction to the injustice she saw around her and a desire to empower women, she set up Afghan Women Social and Cultural Organisation. Marzia was also a member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the women’s committee at  the Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau (ANCB). In 1997 she fled for Pakistan after her life came under threat from the Taliban. Here she established a school for Afghan refugee boys and girls and continued to fight for Afghan women’s rights. Again an attempt was made on her life by the Taliban, which this time left her in hospital for six months.

Marzia Babakarkhail
Marzia Babakarkhail

In 2008 Marzia came to the UK as a refugee and started her life again, first by learning English, and in 2016 was granted British citizenship. Marzia works with Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, and lobbies and campaigns for Afghan women and especially for Afghan female judges to be resettled in safe countries, because they face the greatest risk from the Taliban. Marzia is also their voice in the international media.

Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst uses her voice on the international, national, and local stage to champion women’s rights. She is an academic, international development worker, author, and speaker, and in Manchester the convenor of GM4Women2028, which is seeking to make Greater Manchester a better place for girls and women, in all their diversity, to live, work and prosper.

In 2018, to mark the centenary of the first women getting the right to vote, Helen established the Centenary Action Group (CAG), a cross-party coalition  of over 100 activists, politicians and women’s rights organisations campaigning to end barriers to women’s political participation. Helen published Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights – Then and Now in 2018.

Manchester: First in the Fight tickets are £20, with all the money raised going to support the work of People’s History Museum, and can be booked HERE. The event is suitable for ages 16+.

The Manchester suffragette banner is on display at PHM from Wednesday 21 June until Sunday 7 January 2024, with accompanying trails and tours for visitors of all ages to participate in.

People’s History Museum’s opening hours are 10.00am to 5.00pm, every day except Tuesdays. Entry is free, with most visitors donating £10.

To find out about visiting PHM, its full exhibitions and events programme visit, and you can keep up to date with the latest news by signing up to receive PHM’s e-newsletter, or following the museum on social media on Twitter @PHMMcr, Facebook @PHMMcr, and Instagram @phmmcr.