What’s it like to volunteer for The Pankhurst?
We want you!
The Pankhurst volunteers are an amazing, inspiring group of people, without whom we simply would not have been able to achieve what we have. Yet to deliver our plans for the year ahead – we need more of you!
We’re looking for volunteers across a number of different skill sets, so if you are interested in finding out more, please do get in touch! Volunteering at The Pankhurst Centre can be an excellent way to enhance your personal or career development, find out more about Manchester’s rich heritage, grow your social network or simply to reap the rewards of giving back to your community.
To give you a further insight into the life of a Pankhurst volunteer, we caught up with the inimitable Mary Buchanan…
Tell us a bit about your background?
I’ve lived in Manchester for almost 40 years, having moved up from London. In both London and up here, I’ve always been involved in the feminist movement. I was involved in setting up one of the early Women’s Aid groups in London and in particular I feel very strongly about campaigning for women’s choice. It’s something I have and always will campaign for.
Why did you choose to volunteer at The Pankhurst?
If I’m being honest… I wanted a day each week where my children knew I wasn’t available to look after grandchildren! A whole day blocked out – it’s as noble as that! And I’m only half joking! I already knew a number of the wonderful people that volunteer here at The Pankhurst and on account of my strong interest in both women’s and class issues, it was an obvious choice. Emmeline Pankhurst was a force to be reckoned with – though without an income, could she and her family have achieved what they did? It’s an interesting debate to this day. So all in all, it was the perfect choice for me to volunteer here and to debate with people, with lots of personal benefits!
What type of tasks do you undertake as a volunteer?
Lots of talking! We engage with everyone that comes in, ask them what they already know and fill in any gaps whilst taking them through the museum. I like to spend time finding out people’s stories – we have had some amazing people through the door. I have to say, we have the odd ‘interesting’ character, though that’s good fun in itself. There’s a surprising number of international visitors, including lots of Spanish people – which is great since I’m currently learning Spanish! The Pankhurst has a genuine global appeal and it’s very interesting to welcome everyone that comes through our doors.
What kind of skills do you think are important for a Pankhurst volunteer to have?
You have to have a confidence to engage with people. I would say it’s helpful to have a knowledge or an interest in the history of women’s suffrage and what the building stands for.
How have you personally benefitted from volunteering at The Pankhurst?
Well, I have a grandchild free day! But joking aside, I enjoy it! It’s a chance to meet people, lots of people – occasionally people who will challenge your thinking. I really benefit from that.
What advice would you offer to anyone considering volunteering at The Pankhurst?
I would suggest that you should have an interest in people and be open to getting on with different types of people from different walks of life. Be willing to do whatever tasks whatever you’re asked to do… I’ve only been asked to do the windows once!
It’s good to have volunteers from different age groups – we all have different perspectives on women’s suffrage, based on our experiences and world views.
What do you think the biggest challenge facing women in this moment is?
Women with children are encouraged to return to work, and indeed many wish to, but without affordable and suitable childcare in place this is unrealistic. Similarly women who wish to defer a return to the workplace whilst their children are little should be supported in that choice. Poverty one of the biggest challenges facing women.
Finally, which woman inspires you and why?
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC. She’s very fair! She speaks up for human rights and civil liberties and I feel she uses her profile and positon to effect good. She also has her own charity and is a big supporter of the arts which I admire.
I also like Judi Dench, she doesn’t make a bad film does she… and she has great hair!
If you would like to find out more about volunteering opportunities at The Pankhurst please contact the Centre on 0161 273 5673 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.