by New Worker correspondent
ON 4TH JUNE this year it will be 100 years to the day since the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison died at Epsom racecourse after stepping out from the crowd during the Derby race in front of the King George V’s horse, Anmer.
Last Thursday there was a memorial meeting in Bloomsbury and on 18th April a plaque to commemorate Davison’s sacrifice to draw attention to the cause of women’s right to vote was unveiled at the race course, on the spot by Tattenham Corner from where she stepped out to her death.
The suffragettes organised a huge and dignified funeral an honour of their comrade who had sacrificed her life in the struggle for women's rights and democracy, at St George's Church in Bloomsbury.
The campaign to get a minute's silence at this year's Derby held a rally celebrating the life and struggle of Emily Davison at the very same church last on Thursday 16th May.
Speakers included Katherine Tupper, Emily Wilding Davison's great great niece, Emily Thornberry MP, Shadow Attorney General, Lindsey German, national convenor of Stop the War Coalition, Katherine Connelly, campaign coordinator and author of biography of Sylvia Pankhurst, Yvonne Ridley, journalist and human rights activist and others.
Davison was born in Blackheath, London, the daughter of Charles Davison and Margaret Davison. She attended Kensington High School and won a bursary to Royal Holloway College in 1891 to study literature. She took up her place in January 1892 but in 1893 she was forced to drop out when her father died and her recently widowed mother could not afford the fees of £20 a term. She then took up employment as a private governess after which she became a school teacher raising enough money to study Biology, Chemistry, English Language and Literature at St Hugh’s College.
She obtained first-class honours in her final exams, though women were not at that time admitted to degrees at Oxford. She also obtained a first class honours degree from London University. In 1906 she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union, which was formed in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst.
Davison gained a reputation as a militant campaigner. She was arrested and imprisoned for various offences nine times, including a violent attack on a man she mistook for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George
On 2nd April 1911, the night of the 1911 census, Davison hid in a cupboard in the Palace of Westminster overnight so that on the census form she could legitimately give her place of residence that night as the “House of Commons”. In 1999 a plaque to commemorate the event was set in place by Tony Benn MP.
No one is certain whether Davison intended to commit suicide when she stepped in front of the King’s horse at Epsom on 4th June 1913. But she must have known she risked death or serious injury and her courage has been an inspiration to campaigners ever since.