Emily Davison Remembered as Britain's First Suffragette Hero (Video)

Tuesday, 04 Jun 2013 09:41 AM

By Megan Anderle

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Emily Davison, a 40-year-old teacher who fought for women's right to vote in England, threw herself under King George V’s horse at the Derby 100 years ago Tuesday in a significant moment in suffragette history.

Davison died from her injuries four days after the incident at Epsom, shocking Britain, according to the British Pathé.

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It is unknown whether the avid suffragette, who had already thrown herself down prison stairs after being force-fed during a hunger strike, intended to commit suicide.

Professor June Purvis of the University of Portsmouth, a women's rights expert, said suffragettes never aimed to hurt or take life.

"They were fighting for a moral cause, a just cause. Through her [Davison's] courage and endurance, she showed that physical force - even dying - could not overcome the justice of the cause," Purvis told England's Channel 4.

Footage on the British Pathé depicts the moment she was struck by the horse, named Anmer. Davison hits the ground and jockey Herbert Jones is catapulted from the animal. Crowds rushed onto the track to help them.

Jones later suffered haunting flashbacks from the incident and ended up committing suicide in 1951.

At first, authorities told the public Davison was trying to pull the horse down near the finishing line and recklessly killed herself in the process, but recent analysis of the century-old newsreel suggests she may have been trying to attach a "Votes for Women" sash to the animal.

Davison had a return rail ticket with her and a stub for a Suffragette dance later that evening, which suggests her death may have not been a suicide.

There was widespread public uproar after Davison's death, as there was great public respect for the Royal Family at the time, according to British Pathé. Some historians claim her actions hurt the women's rights movement, which Emmeline Pankhurst launched in 1903, because of the public's outrage from the incident.

Davison joined Pankhurst's group, Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), in 1906. Three years later she quit her teaching career to pursue the suffragette movement full-time, according to the BBC. She was frequently arrested for causing public disturbances and went to jail a number of times.

Renewed support for the suffragette movement didn't come until after World War I. Nine months before the war ended, the Liberal Party government passed the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave women over 30 the right to vote.

In 1928, the legislation was extended to women 21 and older, granting women equal voting rights to men.



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