On June 4, 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 on this day, 8/6/1913.
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 was born in Blackheath in southeast London, in 1906 she joined the Women's Social and Political union (WSPU) which was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst.Through this organisation she became increasibly involved in militant actions for the suffragete movement and the cause of emancipation and freedom.
Through her actions, she often found herself on the wrong side of the law, arrested for acts ranging from causing a public disturbance to burning post boxes, and she was to spend a number of periods in jail.In 1909, she was sentenced to a month's hard labour in Strangways Prison in Manchester after throwing rocks at the carriage of chancellor David Lloyd George. Her passion and dedication was unrelenting, and whilst imprisoned, she attempted to starve herself, and resisted force feeding. A prison guard frustrated by her actions, forced a hose into the room and nearly filled it with water. She did not take this incident lying down, and sued the wardens of Strangeways, and was awarded 40 shillings.
At a time when it was almost impossible for women to take a degree, she earned First Class honours, from London University via St Hughs College, Oxford.On another occasion she hid overnight in Parliament so she could claim it as her address on census night, an exploit marked with a plaque by Tony Benn in 1999.
Today as we go the polling stations to cast our vote we should remember this brave sufragette, who had attempted to pin the sufragette colors to the Kings horse. Remember her bravery, tenacity and passion, who used deeds as well as words to get her message out.
She who made the ultimate sacrifice for one of life's essential causes. Her funeral procession in London saw the streets lined with thousands of people, all payng their respect.She had succeeded in bringing global attention to the sufragettes cause, triggering a fierce wave of feminist resistance and activism to the feminist cause, with her place in history guaranteed in an almost mythic way.
Lest we forget her legacy to women today, a reminder of the strength of feeling, of the acts these brave Edwardian women were prepared to carry out so women could be treated as full citizens economically and politically.