Emily Wilding Davison

Emily Wilding Davison

Political secretary

38

Single

31 Coram Street, London.

WSPU

Evades

Emily (1872-1913) went to Kensington High School and later obtained a first class degree having attended London and Oxford university. She worked chiefly as a governess and joined the WSPU in November 1906. In March 1909, Emily was one of several women arrested after taking part in a deputation to try and meet with Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. She was imprisoned for one month. This experience marked a turning point in Emily's life. Afterwards, she wrote a letter to the WSPU magazine, Votes for Women (11 June, 1909) expressing how: 'Through my humble work in this noblest of causes I have come into a fullness of joy and an interest in living which I have never before experienced'. Thereafter, Emily embarked upon a series of militant actions that eventually led to her death: being trampled under the King's horse when she rushed onto the track at Epsom Derby in 1913. Her militant actions included smashing windows, throwing fake bombs into a political meeting, and hiding herself in the Houses of Parliament whenever possible. One such occasion was on census night on the 2nd April, 1911, when Emily took part in the orchestrated suffrage boycott of the government census. She hid out in a cupboard (where there is now a commemorative plaque) and upon her discovery, a clerk recorded her place of residence on the census survey as the Houses of Parliament - a symbolic location for a disenfranchised woman. In fact, Emily was recorded twice on the government census in two different places. She was also recorded - though absent that night - where she was living in Coram Street as a lodger where she appears on our map (approximate location). Her census details were likely provided by the 'helpful' housekeeper Mrs Bateman, and far more accurately than those recorded by the parliament clerk. During the suffrage campaign, Emily endured multiple arrests, imprisonments, hunger strikes and was subjected to forcible feedings in prison. This was a brutal practice originally implemented to prevent suffragette 'martyr' deaths as well as their early release from prison as a result of hunger striking. On Emily's death in 1913, she was given a lavish funeral through London streets by the WSPU, though she had been considered something of a 'rogue' suffragette in life. The hate mail Emily received during her short time in a coma in hospital before death, demonstrates the vitriol some people had for suffragettes. Written by 'An Englishman' the letter hopes she 'suffers torture' and laments the 'opportunity of starving and beating you to a pulp' (see images). Her friends founded the Emily Wilding Davison club in her memory. Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928 (London: 2001). There is much recent literature available on Emily as well as electronic sources, but a classic text is A. Morley and L Stanley, The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison (London: 1988). For more on Emily's relationship to the Houses of Parliament see https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/electionsvoting/womenvote/case-studies-women-parliament/ewd/

Files

EWD LSE lib.png
E Wilding Davison Parl census GBC_1911_RG14_00489_0217.jpg
Emily Wilding Davison home census GBC_1911_RG14_00696_0771.jpg
EWD hate letter LSE June 1913.png
EWD funeral LSE at St Georges.png
EWD memoriam Parliamentary Archives, HCSASJ1012 item 66.png

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Citation

“Emily Wilding Davison,” Mapping Women's Suffrage, accessed October 24, 2019, https://www.mappingwomenssuffrage.org.uk/items/show/155.

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