On 8 June 1913 Emily Wilding Davison was killed when she ran onto the racing course on Derby day at Epsom.

Emily was part of the Suffragette movement that campaigned militantly for the right for women to vote.

Emily joined in 1906 and was subsequently arrested 9 times for various actions from firebombing post boxes to smashing windows.

She was treated cruelly by the establishment at the time being subjected to acts of force feeding during her imprisonments.

She wrote of one episode:

"A warden held each hand down on the arm of the chair, gripped my head and began to force a tube down my nostril. It hurt me very much, a feeling of suffocation and sickness followed."

This procedure was carried out twice a day and in addition to the physical trauma, the psychological effect would have been great; the sound of prison guards approaching and hearing her friends screaming. On one occasion Emily threw herself down some stairs cracking her skull and bruising her ribs, she was force fed again that night.

Emily also carried out more peaceful protests, one of which involved hiding herself illegally in a broom cupboard in the House of Commons for a night. The particular significance of this was it was the night of the 1911 Census, which meant Emily's address was recorded as the Houses of Parliament for that night, causing great embarrassment to the government of the day.

Derby day was the biggest event of year, all social classes mixed together and the eyes of the news world were focussed on Epsom. The accepted view in the racing world for the last 100 years has been that it was complete chance that Emily chose the Kings' horse, Anmer. The belief is that even if she had known the King's colours, she would not have had a clear enough view until the last minute.

Using footage from 3 camera angles a team of forensics have pinpointed Emily's position, which is closer to the start than has previously been accepted, this opens up the possibility that she did have a clear view of the runners, her view of the King's horse is believed to be substantial. The evidence strongly suggests Emily had worked out the best place to position herself for what she intended to do and have the cameras on her whilst she did it.

Emily is seen to duck under the rail, holding, what is believed to be a scarf bearing the 'Votes for Women' slogan. The belief is that she intended for the King's horse to pass the winning post with the scarf attached to it, the scarf now hangs in the Houses of Parliament. Emily was taken comatose to the cottage hospital in Epsom, she never regained consciousness and died 4 days later. Even as she lay dying she received hate mail. The jockey, Herbert Jones, recovered from his physical injuries, but never forgot Emily and took his own life in 1951.

World War 1 ended the Suffragette movement for the war effort as women were deployed to the factories and fields, but is wasn't until 1928 that women eventually got the vote. Emily Wilding Davison gave her reputation and life to the fight to allow women the right to vote, something we should remember on those cold dark nights when we would rather sit in front of the telly than exercise our constitutional right......

Emily Wilding Davison  1872-1913




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