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Suffragettes: The Unfortunate Death of Emily Wilding Davison.

Updated on February 22, 2016
Horse and Jockey down. Emily is to the left.
Horse and Jockey down. Emily is to the left. | Source

Suicide said many but what do you think?


She died for the cause.

It was Derby Day 1913. The King George V had a horse in the running of what is a famous annual race, The Epsom Derby. On the long left hand bend before the home straight Emily Wilding Davison was waiting. As the horses approached at full gallop she ducked beneath the rails and ran onto the racecourse. She rushed in front of the Kings horse holding her hands high, she was hit by the horse which fell forward to the ground unseating his rider. The horse Amner stood up Emily and Amners rider the renowned jockey Herbert Jones did not. The time is recorded as 3.10pm on June 4th 1913. Herbert was not badly injured, Emily was unconscious, she was rushed to the nearby Epsom Cottage Hospital where she was found to be in a coma. Efforts were made to relieve pressure on her brain but to no avail. She died four days later on the 8th of June without regaining consciousness.

Who was Emily.

She was born on October 11th 1872. Being a Landowner she grew up to great privilege. As a young woman she attended London University graduating with a BA. From there she moved on to Oxford and gained a first class honours degree. She was greatly unhappy that women were not allowed to vote. Men employed by her estate were allowed to vote, yet she was denied the opportunity. To Emily this was blatant discrimination against women and it had to stop.

The Suffragettes.

Emily joined the Suffragettes and became a leading figure in the movement. She took part in attacks on property, amongst other things and was imprisoned, at one point going on hunger strike and being force fed. On another occasion she barricaded herself into her cell, the cell was flooded and the door broken down. Emily was sat there soaked to the skin her facial expression said it all. This treatment only made her stronger and more determined. It was thought that during this time she decided to make the ultimate sacrifice. Embarrass the royal family, perhaps bring down the government, bring the Suffragettes to the notice of Europe and die for the cause. Emily was jailed on several occasions including; Two months for obstruction / Two months for stone throwing in Manchester / One month for stone throwing in Radcliffe near Manchester / One month for breaking windows in the House of Commons / Six months for setting fire to post boxes in London / Ten days for assaulting a vicar she had mistaken for Lloyd George. She did indeed posses a social conscience.


The ultimate sacrifice or the ultimate folly.

An inquest was held and for the people that upheld the suicide theory there were some surprising results. Beneath her coat Emily had a banner this surely she meant to unfurl. The banner was in the Suffragettes colours as was a scarf tied around her waist. In addition she carried a concealed flag in the same colours, surely she meant to unfurl this along with the banner. There was one other thing on her person, it was the return half of the rail ticket she had bought from Victoria Station in London. In the coroners comments he said 'It is exceedingly sad that an educated lady should sacrifice her life in such a way. The verdict on her death was misadventure.

The Funeral.

At Emily's London funeral her carriage was pulled by four black horses, three Suffragettes marched on either side of the carriage. One of the six was Sylvia Pankhurst. In the procession were ex women prisoners, hunger strikers and supporters. At St Georges Church in Bloomsbury it is claimed that up to 6,000 women attended the service. Observers reported up to 50.000 people lined the streets to watch the funeral procession pass by. The following day Emily's coffin arrived by rail in Morpeth her home town in Northumberland. Crowds turned out for her arrival, Emily was buried in the family grave.

Equal voting rights were given to both men and women in 1928.


© 2013 Graham Lee

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Graham, that is the most bizarre suicide I have ever heard of. How incredible....and what a life that woman led.

      This is you at your best, unearthing interesting stories that few have heard of or remember. Excellent job my friend.

      bill

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Bill. Thanks for your visit. The return ticket makes me think she intended going home that night. I feel she intended to stop the race in the name of the cause.

      Graham.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I found this to be very interesting. I have never heard of Emily Wilding, of course if i had been living in that era, i would have been a sufffagette. Equal rights for all has always been my desire. Thank you Graham...

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Ruby. Thank you for your visit. Well said Ruby, this is an old issue now but as I get older I seem to be far more aware of the inequalities of life.

      Graham.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Wow what a great read Graham to greet me back after a week away. I loved so voting up, across, shared and saved. Have a great weekend.

      Eddy/

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Eddy. So you have been away on a break, I hope you enjoyed it.

      Thank you for your votes and comments. I do appreciate them.

      Graham.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      A most fascinating story. Had me from start to finish. Passing this on.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      It's pioneers like this who changed the world and made it better for all. Voted up!

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Rasma. Thank you for your valued visit and comments. I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for passing this on.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Suzanne. Thank you for your valued visit and comments. Yes, it certainly was a fight but they got there in the end. Thank you for your votes.

      Graham.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Mankind, womankind whatever the term someone would use is blessed that such a lovely person was on this planet. Throughout history we are shown the character of those who stepped up to the plate to make a difference.

      Thanks for sharing this.

      Know that Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Patricia. Thank you for your valued visit and comments. Thank you for the angels.

      Graham.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What an interesting hub Graham. I had never heard of Emily Wilding Davison or this incident. Thanks for informing me. She was someone with real conviction. I look forward to reading more of your hubs. Voted up.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Jodah. Thank you for your welcome visit comments and votes. I am glad you found the hub interesting.

      Graham.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      Excellent hub, what an amazing woman and a possible suicide to boot. Well done. jamie

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Jamie. Thank you for your visit and comments. I think she was after publicity myself.

      Graham.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      graham....Outstanding! I am in awe of this tenacious & courageous woman. Strangely, or perhaps not, your hub is my first introduction to this brave, educated woman.

      I wrote a hub on Famed Female Trailblazers and during my research I may have run across a mention of Ms. Davison, but at the time, I was focused on Victoria Woodhull.

      I thoroughly enjoyed this lesson in history......Peace, Paula.. UP+++

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Paula. Sorry for the delay in my reply. Thank you for your welcome visit and comments. Yes you women can certainly show us men the way at times. I think women can be more determined than men sometimes. Men are usually right all the time of course :-) lol.

      Graham.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Hi Graham. Emily's "suicide" was mentioned in a PBS documentary I watched only last week, but for the life of me I can't remember the name of the doc or even the subject at the moment. However, the doc didn't mention the banners or the return ticket, but knowing about them now, like others here I suspect Emily had no intention of becoming a martyr for women's suffrage, only using the race to bring attention to the cause.

      I do find it interesting that in the 100 or so years since women got the vote on both sides of the Pond, America is the only major power that hasn't had an elected female head of government.

      Thank you for bringing out facts about Emily's death I hadn't heard before. ;D

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Joanna. Thank you for your welcome visit. Yes, I am certain Emily had no intention of suicide. She certainly raised awareness of the cause but at a wretched price. Thank you for your in depth comments I appreciate them.

      Graham.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Of COURSE, Graham.....and for several obvious reasons, I would not argue with you. Out of love & respect for my genius & lovable Father (rest his precious soul) and as the mother of 4 sons.....Do I dare claim that men are not always right?? I'm no one's fool! LOL..........

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Paula. Thanks for your welcome visit and thoughtful comments. As the political mantra which is in wide use over here says; We are all in this together. Have a lovely day and keep smilin' :)

      Graham.

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