Remembering Morpeth suffragette Emily Davison, 100 years on

PUBLISHED: 13:43 16 May 2013 | UPDATED: 13:43 16 May 2013

NEL May Emily Davison

NEL May Emily Davison

not Archant

Events are being staged to commemorate the anniversary of suffragette Emily Davison’s death

Words by Ian Leech

One hundred years ago this June the nation froze in horror as suffragette Emily Wilding Davison was sent flying by the thundering hooves of King George V’s horse Anmer as she stepped on to the track during the 1913 Epsom Derby.

Slightly-built Emily was thought to be attempting to pin the purple, green and white colours of the suffragette movement she so passionately supported, to the horse’s bridle to draw attention to the struggle for women’s rights in Edwardian Britain.

Emily’s injuries resulted in her death four days later, followed by her subsequent return to Morpeth to be buried in the cemetery at the town’s St Mary’s Church.

This year, on the 100th anniversary of her death a programme of events in her beloved Morpeth and Longhorsley as well as elsewhere in the country including Epsom, will remember the bravery, courage and commitment of someone who was prepared to suffer unbearable hardships and cruelty to help win the vote and secure equality for women. ‘Her Past, Our Present, Your Future’ marks her legacy and the relevance of her concerns for women’s equality today.

Emily was born in Greenwich although her parents Charles Davison and Margaret Caisley were from Morpeth and Longhorsley respectively. Emily was a highly educated woman who gained a degree from Oxford University even though she was initially barred from graduating because she was female.

She taught for a number of years before joining the Women’s Social and Political Union founded by fellow suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, and from 1907 Emily devoted her life full time to the cause. She was prepared to go to prison several times – enduring the indignity of force feeding 49 times – for staging protests including once hiding in a cupboard in the House of Commons so she could call it her ‘home’ for the purposes of the 1911 census.

Between spells in prison Emily often recuperated in Longhorsley where her mother lived, and would tell friends she never felt more at home or at ease than when she was back in Northumberland.

On the day her body was brought back to Morpeth thousands of people lived the route of the funeral cortege to pay their last respects to someone who was not only well known but respected in the town.

For a number of years now a working group of local organisations including Northumberland County Council, Greater Morpeth Development Trust and Morpeth Town Council as well as individuals and community groups, have been working on preparing a programme of events and activities to remember Emily, her life and her links with Northumberland.

Emily Inspires! will peak in a centennial weekend in June with a concert, the premiere of a new play about Emily by playwright Kate Willoughby, a Bikes and Bonnets ride by 100 women and girls from Longhorsley into Morpeth and a commemorative procession from Morpeth Railway Station to the churchyard.

To find out more about the details of the centennial programme go to emilyinspires.net

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