Suffragette Killed in England - History

Suffragette Killed in England - History

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Emily Davidson
On June 4, 1913 Emily Davidson a woman's rights activist was killed by a horse at the Epsom Derby. Davidson death came after a series of protests on behalf of the right of Women to vote. Many of those demonstration had be violent.

The great reform act of 1832 specified that male persons are those able to vote in parliamentary elections. In 1865 the Kensington society was formed end it debated whether women should be involved in public affairs. It was decided not to discuss the question of women's suffrage. That same year Leah Bodichon formed the first women's suffrage committee. In 1867 the Manchester Society for women's suffrage was founded. In 1872, the National Society for Women's Suffrage was founded. Soon after that, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies was also established. These organizations turned the issue of women's suffrage into a national issue in the knighted kingdom.
In 1903 women's social and political union WSPU was founded by Emmaline Pankhurst. It embraced more militant action to obtain the vote for women. They partook in violent demonstrations, many of them were arrested. Over 600 women were arrested, and many of them were forcibly fed while being in prison. In 1910 a liberal member of parliament introduced a bill to give women The right to vote. Ten thousand women marched in the streets in support of the law. British Prime Minister Asquith was asked to support the bill. However, with two major acrimonious issues being debated; home rule for Ireland and limiting the power of the house of lords, he was unwilling to tackle the issue of women's rights. Women twice marched on 10 Downing St. some of those marchers becoming violent. A newspaper account in the times at the time wrote the following:
"There was at once a mass of spectators and struggling police and suffragettes. Reinforcements of police quickly arrived, and the process of clearing the streets began. The fight was short, sharp, and decisive, and lasted only 10 minutes, although there was such a wealth of incidents with the struggle seem to be of much longer duration. The women fought much more viciously then on Friday, and they were increased fierceness may be accounted for by the fact that some of them have vowed to go to prison for their cause, and are prepared to commit increasingly serious breaches of the law to achieve this object. The rioters yesterday appear to have lost all control of themselves.

Some shrieked, some laughed hysterically, and all fought with the dogged but aimless pertinacity. Some of the riders appeared to be quite young girls who must have been the victims of hysterical rather than deep convictions.

The WSPU continued its activist approach to demanding the right of women to vote. On June 4, 1913, the suffragette movement had its first martyr Emily Davison. She dashed onto the track at the Epsom derby to place a placard on King George's horse. An oncoming horse killed her. Davidson had previously been jailed nine times and had been force-fed 49 times while in jail

Who were the Suffragettes?

Women had been campaigning to get the vote for decades but it was not until the Suffragettes were formed that they managed to achieve their goal on 6 February 1918.

The Daily Mail gave the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) the name Suffragettes as a derogatory term in 1906.

But Emmeline Pankhurst embraced the name for the organisation which she had set up in Manchester three years before.

Truth behind the death of suffragette Emily Davison is finally revealed

As an emblem of women's emancipation Emily Wilding Davison has always been controversial. The suffragette who was fatally injured at the Epsom racecourse during the Derby 100 years ago under the hooves of the king's horse has been saluted by some as a brave martyr and attacked by others as an irresponsible anarchist. Now detailed analysis of film footage of the incident has shed new light on the contentious moments on 4 June 1913 that were to go down in the history of political protest.

Despite the fact that film technology was in its early days, the incident was captured on three newsreel cameras and a new study of the images has shown that the 40-year-old campaigner was not, as assumed, attempting to pull down Anmer, the royal racehorse, but in fact reaching up to attach a scarf to its bridle.

The analysis, carried out by a team of investigators for a television documentary to be screened tonight on Channel 4, also indicates that the position of Davison before she stepped out on to the track would have given her a clear view of the oncoming race, contrary to the argument that she ran out recklessly to kill herself.

Presenter Clare Balding and investigators Stephen Cole and Mike Dixon returned to the original nitrate film stocks taken on the day and transferred them to a digital format. This was done so that they could be cleaned and so that new software could cross-reference the three different camera angles.

"It has been such an extraordinary adventure to discover more about her, about what she stood for, about the suffragette movement," said Balding this weekend on her work with the team making Secrets of a Suffragette.

"It is hugely significant as a moment in history, a moment that absolutely sums up the desperation of women in this country who wanted the vote."

Historians have suggested that Davison was trying to attach a flag to King George V's horse and police reports suggested two flags were found on her body. Some witnesses believed she was trying to cross the track, thinking the horses had passed by, others believed she had tried to pull down Anmer. The fact that she was carrying a return train ticket from Epsom and had holiday plans with her sister in the near future have also caused some historians to claim that she had no intention of killing herself.

In 2011 the horse-racing historian Michael Tanner argued that as Davison was standing in crowds on the inside of the bend at Tattenham Corner it would have been impossible for her to see the king's horse.

But new cross-referencing between the cameras has revealed, say the C4 programme makers, that Davison was closer to the start of Tattenham Corner than thought and so had a better line of sight. In this position she could have seen and singled out Anmer.

Historians have suggested that Davison and other suffragettes were seen "practising" at grabbing horses in the park near her mother's house and that they then drew lots to determine who should go to the Derby.

After colliding with Anmer, Davison collapsed unconscious on the track. The horse went over, but then rose, completing the race without a jockey. Davison died of her injuries four days later in Epsom Cottage Hospital.

At the funeral of the leading suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in 1928, the jockey who had ridden Anmer that day, Herbert Jones, laid a wreath "to do honour to the memory of Mrs Pankhurst and Miss Emily Davison". Jones had suffered a mild concussion in the 1913 collision, but afterwards claimed he was "haunted by that poor woman's face".

In 1951, his son found Jones dead in a gas-filled kitchen. The jockey had killed himself.

Suffragette Killed in England - History

Emily Davison was willing to die for her cause. Maybe. A British suffragette in the early 1900s, Davison became increasingly dedicated to women’s rights as well as increasingly militant during the suffragette movement. Her death came in 1913 when she walked onto the track at the Epsom Derby and was struck by the horse of King George V.

Based on past behavior, many saw her death at an act of defiance. But because she hadn’t given a prior explanation to anyone, her true motives have remained unclear and up for debate.

Emily Davison was born on October 11, 1872, in London. She attended the University of Oxford, even though women weren’t allowed to actually receive degrees at the time, as well as the University of London.

She joined the Women’s Social And Political Union (WSPU) in 1906, which, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, was the most prominent militant women’s suffrage organization in the U.K. Eventually Davison gave up her previous job as a teacher to devote her attention to the organization full time.

Throwing herself fully into the movement, Davison’s used extreme tactics.

She was committed to both labor causes and women’s rights and was unafraid of the repercussions of her actions. These radical tactics included stone throwing and arson. She was arrested nine times and went on seven hunger strikes. By her fifth arrest, the government was already accustomed to the practice of force-feeding her.

In 1909, Davison was sentenced to a month of hard labor in Manchester’s Strangeways Prison for throwing rocks at the carriage of David Lloyd George, who was chancellor of the exchequer at the time. She was arrested again with several other suffragettes in 1912 and all of them went on hunger strikes while in jail. Through her cell, she was able to hear the pain her fellow suffragettes were in as they were being force-fed.

When she was let out so that her cell could be cleaned, Davison jumped off the balcony. She said that the action wasn’t an attempt to escape, but rather to stop the torture of her friends, with the idea that one giant tragedy could save many other ones from occurring. In a letter to the Pall Mall Gazette Davison wrote, “I felt that by nothing but the sacrifice of human life would the nation be brought to realise the horrible torture our women face. If I had succeeded I am sure that forcible feeding could not in all conscience have been resorted to again.”

Wikimedia Commons Portrait of Emily Davison

It was a year later that Emily Davison attended the Epsom horse racing Derby. The date was June 4, 1913.

In the shocking moment that was captured on film, Davison steps out onto the horse track and is mowed to the ground by King George V’s horse, Anmer. Davison’s hat rolled away as the horse, galloping at over 30 miles per hour, trampled over her.

Emily Davison was knocked unconscious and died four days later from a fractured skull.

Her funeral was held on June 14, 1913 in London and included a procession of around 5,000 suffragettes and supporters. An additional 50,000 people lined the route as her coffin was carried through the city.

Getty Images The funeral procession of Emily Davison. London, 1912.

As eventful as Davison’s life was, most of the discussion around it now revolves around her death.

Reactions to Emily Davison have been divisive. To many suffragettes, she was a heroine who became a martyr in death. Others viewed Davison’s radical actions as fanatical and suicidal.

Since she hadn’t mentioned anything about her final moment to anyone, different theories have emerged throughout the years. There is the argument that she wasn’t staging a political act of self-harm, but was actually attempting to tie a scarf or flag that represented the suffragette movement to the horse. This theory has been supported by the evidence that a return ticket, as well as two flags, were found on her by police. Then there are others who say it was a simple accident.

The answer to Davison’s tragic death may never be known, but her passionate commitment to the women’s movement is undebatable.

Women over the age of 30 were given the right to vote in 1918. The age was then lowered to 18 in 1930.

Davison is buried on her family’s plot site in Northumberland, England. Her headstone reads “Deeds not words.”

If you found this article on Emily Davison interesting, you may also be interested in reading about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman in America to run for President. Then, you can read the story of Hypatia, the ancient Greek intellect who was killed for her beliefs.


Suffragettes are seen as selfless today but in the early 1900s they were regarded as terrorists, historian Simon Webb writes.

Even the mildest criticism of the suffragettes makes many people feel uneasy.

The image which we have of them today is that of selfless and patient women, enduring imprisonment, hunger strikes and the horror of force-feeding in pursuit of what was surely a just cause - that of equality of rights between men and women.

Their weapons were, we have been led to suppose, those of passive resistance and peaceful protest, rather than violence against others.

The worst they might have done is break windows or chain themselves to railings.

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This popular perception is quite false the suffragette movement was actually a terrorist organisation.

In the years leading up to the First World War, the suffragettes conducted a ferocious and prolonged bombing campaign across the whole of the United Kingdom planting improvised explosive devices (or IEDs) in places as varied as Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, the Bank of England, the National Gallery, railway stations and many other locations.

The first terrorist bomb to explode in Ireland in the 20th century was planted not by the IRA, but by the suffragettes.

They also invented the letter bomb designed to maim or kill those with whom they disagreed.

One of the first bomb attacks carried out by the suffragettes was on the house of chancellor of the exchequer Lloyd George.

It went off at a little after 6am on 19 February 1913.

The bomb, which brought down ceilings and cracked walls, was planted by none other than Emily Davison, who later died beneath the hooves of the king's horse at the 1913 Derby.

There is currently talk of erecting a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst near Parliament, which is a little strange when we consider how unpopular terrorists are these days.

Pankhurst was the leader of the suffragette terrorists.

After the explosion at Lloyd George's house, she was brought to trial at the Old Bailey for complicity in the attack and sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Those planning the bombings were not lone wolves or mavericks they were being directed and supported by the suffragette leadership.

The day after Mrs Pankhurst was sent to prison, a bomb was placed outside the Bank of England.

Fortunately, a policeman managed to defuse it before it detonated in the crowded street.

For the next 16 months, the bomb attacks came thick and fast.

Some devices, such as one planted at St Paul's Cathedral on 7 May 1913, failed to explode.

Others, such as the large device left at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh a fortnight later, did go off, causing a great deal of damage.

The wave of bombings led to a hardening in the government's position, as well as alienating those who supported the idea of a change in the law to allow women the vote.

There had been every chance before the bombings began that a private members' bill to introduce the vote for women might succeed in getting through Parliament.

But few politicians wished to be seen giving in to terrorism and, as a result, this bill failed even to gain a second reading.

After the failure of the bill, it was plain that the suffragette bombers were harming the struggle for women's civil rights far more than they were aiding it.

Throughout 1913 and the first half of 1914, the bomb attacks increased, striking places as diverse as Holloway Prison and the changing rooms at Cambridge University's football ground.

Churches became prime targets, because of a perceived opposition of the Church of England to women's rights.

Among the churches where bombs exploded were St Martin-in-the-Fields, in Trafalgar Square, Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, famous from The Da Vinci Code, and, on 11 June 1914, Westminster Abbey damaging the Coronation Chair.

The last bomb of the campaign exploded at Christ Church Cathedral in the Irish town of Lisburn, on 1 August 1914.

That same day, Germany declared war on Russia and then, two days later, on France.

The First World War had begun. With the outbreak of the war, the suffragettes abandoned their activities and threw themselves into the war effort.

The struggle to win the vote was forgotten in an upsurge of patriotic feeling.

The terrorist bombings carried out by the suffragettes have today been almost wholly forgotten replaced with a sanitised view of the activists as people who would do nothing more dangerous than break the occasional shop window.

Far from hastening the granting of votes for women, the suffragettes impeded the political progress towards this aim by their dangerous actions, causing most people to reject them as violent fanatics.

Had it not been for the bombings, there is every chance that the vote would have been given to women before, rather than after, the First World War.

:: Simon Webb is the author of The Suffragette Bombers: Britain's Forgotten Terrorists.

Edith Garrud

Suffragette Edith Garrud was born in 1872. While protesting, suffragettes often faced harassment and attacks, both from the police and members of the public. But thanks to Garrud&aposs martial arts instruction, which she was offering to suffragettes by 1909, many learned how to defend themselves with jiu-jitsu.

In addition to "suffrajitsu," as this training came to be nicknamed, Garrud also organized a protective force — called "The Bodyguard" — to keep Pankhurst and other suffragette leaders safe and out of police custody. Besides their martial arts skills, women on protective duty learned to wield clubs they kept hidden in their dresses.

6. Britain&aposs women’s suffrage movement was far more militant than its counterpart in the US.

Demonstration and arrest of suffragettes in London, 1907. (Credit: Photo12 Getty Images)

While the female suffrage movements in Britain and the United States had many commonalities, they also had significant differences. For one thing, British women seeking the vote called themselves “suffragettes,” while Americans preferred the more gender-neutral “suffragists.” And the British activists were far more militant. Under the leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst and the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), thousands of suffragettes demonstrated in the streets, chained themselves to buildings, heckled politicians, broke store windows, planted explosive devices and engaged in other destructive activities in order to pressure Britain’s Liberal government to give women the vote. In a particularly gruesome (and public) display, Emily Wilding Davison was fatally trampled by a racehorse owned by King George V when she tried to pin a sash advertising the suffragette cause to the horse’s bridle during the Epsom Derby in 1913. 

More than 1,000 suffragettes were imprisoned between 1908 and 1914 when they engaged in hunger strikes to draw public attention to their cause, prison officials responded by force-feeding them. Such militant tactics ceased when World War I broke out, as Pankhurst and the WSPU threw all their support behind the patriotic cause. In 1918, the British government granted suffrage to all women over the age of 30, ostensibly in recognition of women’s contributions to the war effort.

Alice Paul

American suffragist Alice Paul (1885-1977) was born into a prominent Quaker family in New Jersey. While attending a training school in England, she became active with the country’s radical suffragists. After two years with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), she cofounded the Congressional Union and then formed the National Woman’s party in 1916. Drawing on her experience, Paul led demonstrations and was subjected to imprisonment as she sought a voting amendment, but her actions helped bring about the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Paul continued to push for equal rights and worked from National Woman’s party headquarters in Washington, D.C., until her later years.

Born into a Quaker family in Moorestown, New Jersey, Paul was raised in an intellectual and religious environment. Her forebears included on her mother’s side William Penn and on her father’s side the Winthrops of Massachusetts her maternal grandfather was one of the founders of Swarthmore College. Paul graduated from Swarthmore in 1905 and then attended the New York School of Philanthropy (later Columbia University School of Social Work), the University of Pennsylvania, and a training school for Quakers in Woodbridge, England. She remained in England from 1907 to 1910.

It was during those years that Paul, while studying and working as a case worker for a London settlement house, served her apprenticeship for what became her vocation: the struggle for women’s rights. She was enlisted by England’s militant suffragists Emmeline and Christobel Pankhurst. Her education as an activist was acquired through a series of arrests, imprisonments, hunger strikes, and forced feedings. She learned how to generate publicity for the cause and how to capitalize on that publicity.

Paul enrolled again at the University of Pennsylvania on her return to the United States in 1910. There she earned a Ph.D. in sociology and began to situate herself in the American suffrage movement. In 1912 she launched her full-time suffrage career. Working first within the National American Woman Suffrage Association (nawsa), Paul gathered about her a group of young women, many of whom had also worked with the Pankhursts in England and who were willing to depart from the association’s conservative tactics.

Paul broke with the nawsa in 1914 and cofounded the Congressional Union, dedicated to seeking a federal constitutional amendment for woman suffrage. In 1916, she founded the National Woman’s party. She led pickets at the White House and Congress and despite America’s entry into World War I refused to abandon these tactics. She and her colleagues were arrested and imprisoned they engaged in hunger strikes and endured forced feedings at the hands of authorities. Ultimately her tactics, as well as persuasion from Carrie Chapman Catt, induced President Woodrow Wilson to make a federal suffrage amendment a war measures priority, a stand he had previously refused to take. Paul was a pivotal force in the passage and ratification in 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment.

In 1923, Paul proposed an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Overcoming the opposition of women’s organizations who feared the loss of protective legislation, she helped gain acceptance of an era plank in the platforms of both major political parties in 1944. She continued to work actively out of the National Woman’s party headquarters in Washington, D.C., until failing health forced her to relocate to the Connecticut countryside in 1972. Even then she continued to provide inspiration to new generations of women’s rights activists until her death in 1977.

Throughout her life, Alice Paul remained personally conservative and professionally demanding of both herself and her colleagues. She did not relinquish power readily nor could she be easily persuaded to depart from the methods and tactics she had learned from the Pankhursts in England. But her vision for women always transcended her conservatism and rigidity. ‘I think if we get freedom for women, then they are probably going to do a lot of things that I wish they wouldn’t do,’ she said shortly before her death. 𠆋ut it seems to me that isn’t our business to say what they should do with it. It is our business to see that they get it.’

The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Emily Davison (1872 - 1913)

A suffragette being force-fed © Davison was a militant suffragette who died after throwing herself in front of the king's horse at the Epsom Derby.

Emily Wilding Davison was born in Blackheath in southeast London on 11 October 1872. She studied at Royal Holloway College and at Oxford University, although women were not allowed to take degrees at that time.

In 1906, she joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded by Emmeline Pankhurst. Three years later she gave up her job as a teacher and went to work full-time for the suffragette movement. She was frequently arrested for acts ranging from causing a public disturbance to burning post boxes and spent a number of short periods in jail.

In 1909, she was sentenced to a month's hard labour in Strangeways Prison in Manchester after throwing rocks at the carriage of chancellor David Lloyd George. She attempted to starve herself, and resisted force-feeding. A prison guard, angered by Davison's blockading herself in her cell, forced a hose into the room and nearly filled it with water. Eventually, however, the door was broken down, and she was freed. She subsequently sued the wardens of Strangeways, and was awarded 40 shillings.

By 1911, Davison was becoming increasingly militant. On 4 June 1913, she ran out in front of the king's horse as it was taking part in the Epsom Derby. Her purpose was unclear, but she was trampled on and died on 8 June from her injuries.

ɻrutal lunatic woman'

King George V wrote in his diary that "poor Herbert Jones and Anmer had been sent flying" on a "most disappointing day".

Queen Alexandra sent Jones a telegram wishing him well after his "sad accident caused through the abominable conduct of a brutal lunatic woman".

Emily Davison died four days later in hospital from internal injuries and a fractured skull.

The debate continues about whether Ms Davison meant to kill herself, or was merely trying to attach a suffragette ribbon onto the King's horse as a protest.

Jones was unconscious for a short time and suffered from concussion. He also needed to wear a sling on one arm for some time afterwards.

The King's jockey was invited to Davison's funeral, but his injuries stopped him from attending.

Within two weeks of the Derby, he was back riding Anmer for the King at Ascot.

On 17 July 1951 Jones's son found his father's lifeless body in his gas-filled kitchen.

The story that the 70-year-old Herbert ➾rtie' Jones killed himself after being "haunted by that woman's face" all his life has been refuted in a book by Michael Tanner.

Towards the end of his life Jones became deaf and suffered from two strokes.

Mr Tanner, a sports writer who specialises in horse racing, said: "His wife's death and his deafness caused him to take his life."

John Jones said stories of his father being "haunted" by Davison's face were "an utter load of rubbish".

Mr Tanner, author of Suffragette Derby, described the jockey as "very gregarious, happy and contented and interested in local football and cricket and a keen gardener" until his hearing began to fail.

He said his research had suggested that the story of him being "haunted" by Davison's face had only been around for the last 10 to 15 years.

In 1934, a feature on the 1913 Derby by Herbert Jones, thought to have been ghost written, appeared in the Sunday Express.

"There's nothing in there that alludes to him being "haunted" by Davison," Mr Tanner said.

"It's rubbish - it didn't ruin his life, as his children have told me."

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