1 June 2019

Ethiopia: Rita Pankrust Passes Away Aged 92

opinion

Rita Pankrust, the wife of the late historian, Richard Pankrust has passed away.

The Oxford educated and a Romanian native and a former librarian with Chatham House, first ventured into Ethiopia in 1956, joining her then young fiancée and his mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, who was a noted political activist from a family of activists from the United Kingdom's suffragette movement era and leading women's activists, including for the rights of British women to vote.

In Ethiopia, Rita worked for a decade with the National Library of Ethiopia and married her late husband in the capital in 1957, starting her long association with the country and becoming part of the noted family's activism in the affairs of Ethiopia.

The reaction of her death was quick.

"It is with great regret that the Embassy has learned of the passing of Rita Pankhurst, wife of the renowned Ethiopian and historian, Richard Pankhurst," the United Kingdom Embassy in Ethiopia said in a statement. "The Embassy avails itself of this opportunity to transmit its heartfelt condolences to family and friends."

Ethiopia's top diplomat at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, Taye Astke Selassie, said that "Rest In Peace mom. She will be remembered for the lifelong love of Ethiopia," he said on twitter.

In Ethiopia, she served as a librarian of what was then called the Haile Selassie University I, now called Addis Ababa University, for a decade, before her eventual return to London at the beginning of the era of Derg.

However, it did not last long. She would return to Ethiopia in 1987 and continue to work and publish feminist books, including the Collection development and women's heritage: the case of the Fawcett Library, among others.

This would be in addition of her activism work with her husband, described as the 'Dejazmach Bandirew, by the Union of Tigraians of North America, for his effort to have the Axum Obelisk returned to Ethiopia.

Rita Pankhurst was preceded by her husband who died in 2017, and is survived by her two children, Helen and Alula Pankhurst, an academic and activist in his own right, including to have the remains of the Prince Dejazmatch Alemayehu Tewodros, the son of Emperor Tewodros who was kidnapped by British forces and died a lonely death far from Ethiopia and is buried in Windsor Castle in Britain, returned to Ethiopia and several grandchildren.

Ethiopia

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