Friday 31 May 2013

Suffragette – Emily Wilding Davison

This story interested me ... we really do not know what went on 100 years ago ... we think history is recorded accurately, yet, as here, it obviously was very different.

1909 Handbill
Some records on Emily’s protests were only released in 2003 – ninety years after the events ... they are scary.  

I don’t pass judgement ... but I do like to remember that each aspect I see being reported then and now ... that there might be other points to be considered – so often we don’t see or hear of them, or think about things from a different angle.

On 4 June 1913, ardent suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison stepped out in front of King George V’s racehorse, Anmer, during the Epsom Derby.  Thrown violently to the ground upon impact, she never regained consciousness and died four days later.

The Suffragette, newspaper
edited by Emily Pankhurst -
the Memorial issue

Sacrificing herself to the suffragette slogan “Deeds not Words” in protest against Parliament’s refusal to grant voting rights to women, Davison remains a feminist icon, viewed by many as a martyr for women’s rights.

Emily Wilding Davison (1872 – 1913) showed that she was a very determined lady from a young age ... her father died, she was taken out of school ... but she still achieved entrance to study biology, chemistry, English Language and Literature at St Hugh’s, Oxford.

She was a militant agitator within the Suffragette movement, who expressed her frustrations that it was ludicrous that in the early 1900s women still did not have the right to vote.
Is this justice for women?
(open up to read in full
and understand
is this justice for women?)

The Suffragettes had to keep agitating as the Government waxed and wane with opening the voting doors for women ... but as so often the Government pedalled backwards.

For some feminists this was a time to make sure their cause was heard ... and militancy escalated; Davison was arrested nine times, sent to prison, latterly going on hunger strikes and was force fed (in those days – via tube and funnel).

On one such occasion in 1909 she hurled herself ten metres down a flight of iron stairs in protest ... injuring her spine and fracturing her skull.  Her intention, she wrote afterwards, was to stop the suffering of everyone else by carrying out this action.

That fateful Derby day was one of the early occasions when newsreel recorded the event – from three different camera angles ... but it took one hundred years before the films were analysed to see if they matched what had been reported.

Davison falling to the ground -
the horse and jockey were not
badly injured - though the jockey
was badly traumatised.
It was thought that Emily had purposely thrown herself in front of the King’s horse to kill herself ... yet that was not obvious in her demeanour, nor from her life – which was looking forward.

The analysis of the film footage suggests that Emily was in a slightly different place to that historically recorded, and that she likely had full sight of the horses – so knew which horse to target: that of the King’s ...

... and that she very possibly only wanted to attach a “votes for women” sash – which now hangs in the Houses of Parliament.

 Every person in the UK has the right to petition the Crown, but Emily knew that would not be possible with her police record ... and possibly realised that this was one way she could bring the Women’s Suffragette Cause to the King and Queen’s notice.

No one was aware of her intentions, which were to end in such a sad unintentional way ... she was determined, if not wise in her actions ...

Memorial Plaque
on back of cupboard
door where Emily
hid during the night
of the 1911 Censu

To think where would we be today ... if women, like Emily, had not campaigned vigorously for the vote ... they downed ‘tools’ at the start of the War – to put their efforts into working and keeping going the parts of life that their men-folk had been responsible for before the War started.

In 1919 women were granted some rights, but in 1928 the franchise equalled that for men.

I hadn't realised that in the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony - Emily was honoured when, amid the depiction of monumental events in British history, there was a tribute to the Suffragettes' struggles, and the key moment in Davison's crusade to win voting rights.  

I need to revisit the Opening Ceremony footage - to learn more, obviously!

EmilyDavison at her Wikipedia page:      Links I looked at

Timelineof Women’s Suffrage across the world – worth a look through ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Old Kitty said...

Amazing beautiful and totally inspirational women! I am totally totally totally thankful for the bravery these brilliant women showed! Such trailblazers! Yay!!!

Take care

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I loved learning about Ms. Davison. Thank you for sharing this. I think her story should be taught in every history class.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

In these days of equal rights it is really difficult to conceive of what this was like. Clearly the suffragettes had to take drastic action to get even a small bit of attention for their cause.

Jo said...

Women's suffrage was quite incredible and this is an interesting part of its history. I couldn't have done what they did.

I'm not surprised the jockey was traumatised.


Sue McPeak said...

An interesting history lesson, Hillary. It gives credence to the saying, 'There's more to the story than meets the eye'. Does make you wonder if the skull fracture didn't affect her reasoning and timing judgement...stepping in front of a race horse.

Sue CollectInTexasGal~Today's Post~
Friday Faces...Confederate Cousin

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Old Kitty - she, along with all other suffragettes, was/were inspiration .. and where would we be today without them ..

@ Keith - thanks very much .. there's a lot of history that should be told and re-told to us all ..

@ Karen - Britain was terribly late in granting the franchise to women .. Sweden started in 1718 ..

They were women with sensibilities and they didn't want to disrupt life in general .. they just wanted the vote! Seems fair to me ..

@ Jo - I agree .. but I think we'd have joined, in fact I'm sure I would have done ..

The poor jockey committed suicide in 1951 - a desperately sad "unintended consequence" ..

@ Sue - we certainly need to think about things a great deal more - be it a story, tv, newspaper article, magazine article ..

It appears she was still clear headed, once she'd got over the prison stair fall, as she had a return ticket and had written a postcard to her sister in France saying she'd be visiting ... so the intention was for the cause .. but obviously this bash to the ground - would have impacted her skull very seriously - hence her death.

Cheers - and your comments added to the conversation thanks .. Hilary

T. Powell Coltrin said...

What a great woman she was. It still amazes me the struggles people have to go through to get basic human rights.

Rosalind Adam said...

I didn't notice anything about her in the Olympic Opening Ceremony either. She was brave, a little reckless perhaps. What makes me really mad/sad is the number of women who don't bother to use their vote!

LTM said...

Well done, Sister Suffragette! Thanks for sharing this story, Hilary! It was the first time I'd heard it. :o) <3

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Will the history books now reflect this recent discovery?

Michael Di Gesu said...


What a woman! It amazes me that not too long ago, woman and African Americans had little to no rights.

We are ALL human beings and should have equal rights, now matter what our beliefs (unless you are a homicidal maniac then no).

NO government or PERSON has the right to take rights away from another or keep them downtrodden.

Thanks for the post Hilary. Very interesting.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Teresa .. yes the sad thing is - it is going on all around the world, especially with women, but sometimes just populations or parts of society ..

@ Karen - I thought it an interesting story .. you'd like to read about .. and Ros posted on her too ..

@ Ros - snap! - no I think that Olympic Games Opening Ceremony was very very clever, and probably too clever for its boots - as many of us watching couldn't have grasped the context of the whole .. I must watch it again ..

I agree - we should all use our vote - they all count ..

@ Leigh - glad you enjoyed it .. it's fascinating to find out what happened, which we know nothing about ..

@ Alex - I doubt it - but she does feature in Wikipedia, the tv programme was made and everyone who ever studies the Suffragette movement will always be aware of her now ... and not just the main suffragettes ..

It was the finding of her hiding in the Houses of Parliament on Census night - so she's recorded as resident in the HoP!! Strange but true ..

@ Michael - there's so much wrong doing in the world, and so much abuse - it makes me constantly shudder ..

The African/Americans .. that was more recent too ..

Exactly we're all humans and we should all be treated fairly ..

Glad you enjoyed it ..

Cheers to you all - thought you'd find this story informative .. Hilary

Laura Eno said...

What an amazing woman and equally amazing story. How sad to have died, if not intentional. Her determination has culminated in a valuable legacy.

M Pax said...

What an intriguing person. Guess you all got voting a year before your US counterparts.

loverofwords said...

Thank you for writing about this brave woman. There was no quiet way to bring suffrage to the public eye; the women had to be outrageous in order to be heard. Hard for us to imagine today, not being able to vote.

Silvia Writes said...

What a wonderful story, Hilary. Sad to say I didn't know any of this ... or maybe I did at some point.
What a courageous woman Emily was ... sacrificing herself, even if not such a wise move, helped liberate others. A hero indeed. Thanks for sharing. This was an interesting read through and through.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

How interesting. I'd never heard of Ms. Davison before, and now this makes the second post I've read about her this week. (But don't ask me to remember WHERE I read it!) Those women trailblazers who risked so much to fight for equal rights, including the right to vote, deserve our deepest gratitude. It's a shame, however, how many people nowadays, both men and women, take the right to vote so much for granted... they don't even bother to cast a ballot.

Lynn said...

Oh my - poor Emily, but her cause lived on. I admire crusading women.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wow! What an amazing young woman!

Thanks for sharing this with us, Hilary.

Manzanita said...

Great history lesson. I didn't know of her. Not many women would feel that passionate over women's suffrage.

D.G. Hudson said...

We have a lot to thank the suffragettes for. I hadn't heard of Emily before your post.

Thanks for sharing this information, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Laura - her determination certainly kept the rights of women at the forefront ..

@ Mary - I see your voting came in in stages through the States, but eventually in 1920 - we only got full franchise in 1928.

@ Tasha - that's what happened .. the women needed to be beyond vociferous .. and they were. It is hard for us to realise this was only 100 years ago ..

@ Silvia - well nor did I; I knew of the Suffragettes .. but not in detail. Her story is a fascinating one .. and she'll be remembered.

@ Susan - Ros Adams' post included Emily and the Suffragettes .. Our right to vote as 50% of the world is such a basic human right .. sadly still this is not the case, but at least in Democratic countries we have that right - though people don't realise its value ..

@ Lynn - it's a sad story, but she was so determined in her cause ..

@ Sharon - glad you enjoyed it .. I didn't know about her at all ..

@ Manzanita - I think back in the 1900s, the concept of women's rights to vote was a definitive cause, that people were not going to relinquish - the Suffragette movement was well supported

@ DG - we do have a lot to thank the suffragettes for .. at least theoretically we are equal now ..

Cheers to you all .. enjoy the weekend .. looks like SUN here!! Hilary

Vallypee said...

How very interesting, Hilary. I must say my first thought was 'how stupid to do that' and my second was 'what happened to the horse?' She was indeed remarkable in her courage and perseverance, but sorry to sound judgemental - anyone who thinks they can hang something on a racing horse needs their head examined. As you see I have mixed feelings about her - but then I have that about most fanatics too - and I am concerned for the fate of the animal and rider. I hope they were okay!

Juliet said...

Goodness me, you do unearth some fascinating subjects. I remember watching a TV series about the Suffragettes many years ago and having my eyes opened about how much they suffered, and learning about Emily. You've filled it out so well in this post. Thank you Hilary.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I was watching the news this morning. Apparently women at the time were considered mentally unstable for wanting the vote. It's hard to believe those attitudes existed just 100 years ago - it shows how far we really have come!

Charmaine Clancy said...

You've dug up some fascinating research there. I do feel bad for the jockey, it would have been horrible.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Val - she was just very determined, and needed (wanted) to draw the King's attention to their plight/demands ... it was 100 years ago .. and things were very different. The horse and jockey were all right .. though the jockey did suffer from post traumatic stress (we'd call it today) ...

@ Juliet - it's the fact it's 100 years after her death, that she and her actions have been highlighted again - glad you enjoyed the extra snippets ..

@ Annalisa - the thinking of the established professionals is very odd - well again as we see it today .. Certainly our attitude towards mental illness has changed, thankfully ..

@ Charmaine - you're right there the jockey was traumatised - but it's an interesting period in history ..

Cheers to you - Hilary

Anonymous said...

Hi, Hilary. Thank you for the interesting history lesson. I'd never heard of Emily Davison before today.

Michelle Wallace said...

I can remember first learning of the suffragette movement when I was in grade 6 or 7... somewhere around there.
We studied a setwork based on this. I can't remember the title.(now I'm going to wrack my brains trying to remember...)
Really fascinating stuff.
Writer In Transit

Catch My Words said...

Thank goodness for the suffragists.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely brilliant post. I knew that name, but actually thought she was an author. You've totally enlightened me - thank you.

Fancy a death like that: incredible. I reckon she did just want to attach the sash.

Wonderful, wonderful woman.

Chatty Crone said...

I don't think I could have done it - but I am glad we get to vote. Don't your wonder where they get that mindset and courage? I loved this. sandie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susanne - glad you enjoyed the history .. and I hadn't heard of her either .. but thought the story an important/interesting one.

@ Michelle - I'm sure we just studied the Pankhursts and the leaders of the Movement ..hope you can remember the title ... and am glad to read you enjoyed it ..

@ Joyce - nice to see you here - yes I agree .. thanks to the Suffragette movement ..

@ WFFME - delighted you so enjoyed the post ... good to see you here .. such a sad death, inevitable in the circumstances, I suspect .. but she was as you say an incredible woman.

@ Sandie - we just don't know do we .. there are so many people who stand up for their cause still ..

So pleased you've all enjoyed reading about Emily - all the best from a warmer England! Hilary

Sandy said...

Very interesting post. I can see why people thought she did it purposely, she had thrown herself down steps which could have killed her and in either case injury or death would cause attention to "The Cause". I get upset with today's youth, some young ladies who seem to be airheads when they say things like they're not going to vote, or it doesn't interest them...I always tell them, people--Women of courage suffered alot to give you this right you disrespect them by not using it.

Like you Hilary I reply to comments on my blog, I think often people read comments as well as the blog, and more then one person may have the same question. And most times I pop back to the person and leave an answer along with a comment on their blog also. I don't think I call the one sided come read me and the heck with you attitude sophisticated; like you I just keep at it. I do think though many people start a blog and don't know what their settings are or how it affects visiting etc, thus my suggestion for folks to think about what they want and to check their blogs.

What are your thoughts on revamping?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sandie .. one of the points I was trying to get across without actually stating it - was the records including often the police records were wrong ... as happens today at times.

I think I'd throw myself down the stairs if I was being force fed, in a freezing cell ... desperate conditions - but courage is the right word.

Trying to get people to see things from another point of view is so often difficult - and people can't be bothered in many cases .. They don't realise the implications on their life, or their future generations life ...

I prefer to reply here - and I try and remember to pop back to a comment I made if I want an answer - that doesn't often happen, as I forget where I was!!

Getting an email reply is lovely .. but as you say may not appear on the blog .. yet then I can interact personally with some bloggers, which is always very nice.

If you're not sure what's what - it's difficult to sort out sometimes .. I know I can't work things out ... I'm hoping I can sort the technicalities out - but if I have other projects on the go ... those thoughts could go out of the window ..

Revamping - updating the blog and generally some new things - not exactly sure what til I start ..

Cheers and thanks for your comment - I wish people would vote I agree .. and the elderly don't think either .. one subject is enough and they're off voting irrationally .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

It's easy to look back on certain historical periods as "quaint" when really there was just as much political angst as we see today -- just directed at issues we now take for granted as being solved.

Nick Wilford said...

It's a tragedy that she had to go to such lengths to achieve equality. But even today we have a similar thing with the wrangling over gay marriage. Everyone should have the same rights as everyone else.

TALON said...

I give thanks every day for women like Emily who were brave enough to act upon their beliefs. I can't help wondering what more stellar and amazing things she could have accomplished if she hadn't perished.

Tara Tyler said...

i cant believe there isnt a movie about her! and if there is, its time for a remake!
what an extremist! but sometimes it takes extreme action to make people pay attention!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Milo - the Suffragette movement was very vocal, but they would have preferred to be non-militant .. but Parliament didn't listen ..

@ Nick - Parliament's blight ... seems extraordinary that men should want to keep women 'down' ... and as you mention today - everyone should have rights

@ Talon - I'm sure they'd have relished in having the vote and being able to influence government at all levels ...

@ Tara - there isn't a movie, but there are books, articles and tv programmes .... the subject matter wouldn't have suited the ruling classes/society, it's only in this enlightened age, that we're able to learn more ..

The Dam Busters film made in 1955 and the books - contained a great deal of incorrect information, as the real information was still classified ...

Interesting aspects to think about .. cheers to you all - looks like our summer might have arrived! Hilary

Tina said...

What an amazingly brave and persistent woman! Thanks for sharing this story. I do wonder what she really meant to happen...
Tina @ Life is Good

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina - I'm sure she meant to attach the scarf - because she could not petition the King ... but this would get noticed when his horse crossed the finishing line ..

I'm glad I read and wrote about her story .. cheers Hilary

Vallypee said...

I do agree with everyone here about two things, Hilary. Firstly, Emily was very passionate and very determined to get the vote for women, and for that she gets my admiration. She was also remarkable in her self education. That I really respect tremendously, especially at that time. I realise I sounded a bit critical in my comment, so I thought I would give my positive thoughts as well - and I'm very relieved the horse and jockey were okay. It could have been fatal for them too.

The second is that you are amazing too at the incredible wealth of general and not so general knowledge you present here.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Val - thanks for coming back after 'rethinking' the story .. I think the poor woman had been through so much - she'd worked out a strategy and just very unfortunately it all went badly wrong ... I agree it wasn't sensible - but she was 'desperate' to get Government to give women the vote ..

The jockey never really got over the incident - committing suicide in 1951 .. it must have been very difficult for him psychologically ..

The horse may have suffered that way too, that we will never know ..

Thanks - I just enjoy passing on information that interests me .. that's probably not going to be known about by our blogging fraternity .. or add to the knowledge that will be known - I teach myself too!

Cheers good to see you come back .. all the best - Hilary

Mark Koopmans said...

I knew the Queen was into horses and had heard of Emily Davison, but you opened my eyes (and mind) on both fronts :)

Cheers, Hilary :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark .. I had really realised quite how many categories of equestrianism there are .. so I learnt a lot.

Then this post - just was fascinating to learn about ..

Cheers Hilary

Denise Covey said...

Hi Hilary. "My Kingdom for a horse" eh? The Women's Suffrage movement was amazing. Good on NZ and Oz though. Who sez we wuz backwoods, lol!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Denise .. the Suffragette timeline is interesting isn't it .. we were really late in the day .. so yes good on NZ and Oz - not backwoods, just upside down!!

Cheers Hilary

Paula RC said...

I'm so sorry I missed you posting about Emily Davison. I just wish more young women in this country understood how lucky we are and how hard these women fought to give us the rights we have. All around the world other women aren't us lucky as we are and are still suffering because they don't.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Paula .. life is just plain busy a lot of the time - but the fact that Emily's name has been kept in the public eye this year is as you say very important.

I just wish we weren't so polarised in our thought .. and would think more about others around us - and as you say in the world ... we are so lucky in this country.

Thanks for coming here and appreciating the post - Hilary