Small in stature and not in the best of health, Adela Pankhurst (1885-1961) was nonetheless a compelling speaker and tireless worker in the anti-war campaigns in Australia during the First World War. She was the youngest daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst who along with her daughters Sylvia and Christabel, founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) the leading militant organisation campaigning for women’s suffrage in the UK. Following a rift between the Pankhurst women because of opposing political opinions, Adela sailed to Australia in April 1914 never to see her mother or sisters again. Adela joined Victoria’s leading suffragist Vida Goldstein’s organisation, the Women’s Political Association and helped her set up branches of the Women’s Peace Army. During the two anti-conscription referendums, Adela campaigned almost daily. Adela’s fiercely patriotic mother Emmeline, denounced her daughter in a telegram dated 8 March 1917 to Prime Minister Billie Hughes.
In August 1917, Adela was arrested for obstructing the carriage way during a demonstration against wartime food prices outside Melbourne’s Federation Parliament House. While on remand from a gaol sentence Adela married unionist Tom Walsh the following month forestalling deportation. After the war she continued her life of activism becoming a leading member of the communist party in Australia but later withdrew, launching the Australian Women’s Guild of Empire, an organisation dedicated to fighting communism, upholding Christian ideals and safeguarding the family.