She’s known as a suffragette who fought tirelessly for better conditions for working women, but lesser known is Sylvia Pankhurst’s artistic ability. That will change soon: on Thursday, Tate announced it will acquire four watercolors Pankhurst painted after touring industrial workplaces in 1907. That year, she spent several months visiting factories in Northern England and Scotland where she witnessed—and later documented in her art and writings—the poor working conditions and low wages to which women were subjected.
Two of the four works acquired by Tate depict women toiling in the cotton mills in Glasgow, where Pankhurst wrote of “the almost deafening noise of the machinery and the oppressive heat”, which at one point became “so hot and airless that I fainted within an hour.”
The paintings were acquired directly from the Pankhurst family with funds provided by the Denise Coates Foundation. In a statement
, Sylvia’s granddaughter, Helen Pankhurst, said: