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Wednesday’s wise women …. and votes for women

June 5, 2013

Emily Wilding Davison

For the last few weeks on and off,  I have been reading about the Suffragette Movement through the eyes of Annie Kenney and Hannah Mitchell who were actively involved. I was very pleased when the Guardian Review featured Emily Wilding Davison as ‘My Hero.’ Emily Wilding Davison was a militant suffragette who famously ran into the the racing horses at Ascot Race Course.  It was her intention to affix a flag; a salute for Votes for Women to the King’s horse so that when it won the race, so the flag would be raised on high. Emily Davison well known for her publicity raising and reckless challenges, misjudged the situation and was fatally struck by the horse as it galloped to the winning post!

This shocking incident was reported then through the eyes of those who believed what they wanted to believe and inform a nation too, who also had preconceived ideas, about women’s right’s, behaviour and current events.  

So Emily Wilding Davison; an Oxford graduate with a first class degree was given various labels as if to gloss over her so called latest act against the outdated-constitution! As Val McDermid said ‘the various factions … called her martyr, mad woman, maniac and simply mixed up.

Hannah Kenney in her Memories of a Militant says,  that Emily Wilding Davison who had recently spent 6 months in prison for setting fire to a pillar-box, goes on to say  no one had knowledge of her intentions. As the King’s horse passed,  who was the favorite for the Derby,  she flung herself in front; the jockey was thrown and the Emily lay unconscious and died 4 days later.  Annie  Kenney suggests that ‘Emily died as she lived, for women’s freedom. The funeral procession was like those given for crowned heads.  She had won her crown of martyrdom. Peace was hers’.

However Val McDermid says differently; that although Emily was not the only suffragette to lose her life for the cause her action was recorded in film; in that respect possibly put the ‘issue’ on to the world stage.  However, after close consideration,  frame by frame it becomes clear that she did not fling herself under the King’s horse she was in fact reaching for the bridle so rather than a suicidal stunt it was a shocking accident.  It was an example of the lengths women were had to go to, now that mild measures of violence were not working. Also as Mary Phillips  in the Militant suffrage campaign in perspective says the Constitution of the country make it impossible for the Women’s Course to be pursued constitutionally unless they had adequate support from men.  The women had to fight by every means open to a voteless person’ … those outlawed by the constitution.  

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