The Death of Emily Davison: Planned or Unperceived

February 20, 2014
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On June 4th 1913 at the Epsom Derby while the horse race was drawing to a close a middle aged woman of 40 named Emily Wilding Davison ran out across the track with her arms spread above her head as if to halt the oncoming horse, which was that of the King's. She apparently was attempting to seize Amner's (the King's horse) bridle although instead ended up being collided into. She was thrown to the ground and was hence trampled on by its hooves as it too fell.

It was unsuccessful to revive her and she died 4 days later from internal injuries and a fractured skull.

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There are two theories to this case, neither can be concretely proven, no matter the amount of ideas and facts backing either side, without a testimony written by the victim of her true intention. And so they, either ideas of whether Emily Davison wished to kill herself or simply stop the horse, remain both in theory.

However, that said it is in my own greatly factual opinion that I say her actions were intentional. She was a known member of the suffragettes and obviously one of the more militant members as she was previously arrested the year before (and 8 times prior to that) for setting fire to a pillar box. It was while she was in Holloway Prison for six months that she was force fed 49 times after going on two hunger strikes.Which was a common battle between the prison guards and arrested suffragettes. It was said that this made her much more radical in her thoughts and actions.

And quoted in a book by Emmeline Pankhurst (the founder of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) that Emily had joined in 1906) Emily, according to Emmeline, believed whole heartedly that "the conscience of the people would awaken only to a sacrifice of human life". And later it was well documented of her attempt at suicide inside the prison walls.
"As soon as I got the chance I threw myself over the prison railings. The idea was that my tragedy would save many others..."

This source tells me of her clearly driven passion towards women's rights and her devotion to the cause through her own life. In her words saying "my tragedy would save many others" to my mind she means to explain that by this action of selfless love for her fellow women she is opening the eyes of closed minded and hearted souls to the idea that what these women are campaigning for won't just go away and is far more important to them than those oppressing them could ever have imagined. Putting into perspective the question of why they would need to and are being oppressed anyway?

It makes me wonder, if she could attempt it once would she not attempt it again once released? But with a bigger audience? More people to see the spectacle, to feel the emotions, would be far greater than a few guards and a write up in a newspaper wouldn't it? And if she had known about the video cameras to be there, which of course she would have as the King's horse was going to be there racing (also a good tool for impact), it would have been rather a large bonus for her that not only thousands of people from her own area would see her suffragette movement but thousands more across the country, possibly reaching out further than the it's borders.

But then of course, as I explained there are two arguments. The other being that she had never meant to kill herself and that all she had meant to do is stop the King's horse as she tried to grab ahold of its bridle. This makes some sense as in her bag she had with her a return ticket from where she had come from along with a ticket to a suffragette dance for later in that day. A friend of her's had also explained that she would never have committed suicide without having at least have sent her mother a note. It is a good argument and yet very easy to unravel.

In those days suicide was illegal and would have brought great shame upon her mother who was already left widowed and would not have needed any greater pain from that. The ticket could have been a rouse to disguise her plan so that when her death was investigated she would have an alibi, along with her other ticket to the dance, against suicide. Again her friend could have been asked by Emily to say this to protect her and her families reputation. Also to make herself a proper martyr she would have needed the incident to have been an accident!

As well as this we have no actual proof that she never left her mother a note. If it was her friend who said it who is to say that the friend did not deliver a note to her mother, or that Emily had not spoken to her in person. Just because it was not made public does not mean it never happened. On the other hand her friend really could have been telling the truth as to make it seem more realistic she went completely all the way as if she could never have contemplated what would have happened.

The act of letting her mother know beforehand was too risky. She could have informed the authorities to keep her safe and she would have been arrested again and would have made no real great change to her cause. It could also have hurt her mother more if she had known it was a suicide, as with an accident she would not be able to blame herself and would have put it down with, like everyone else, the fault of those who had suppressed her bright daughter. With nothing that could have been done on her own part.

In my conclusion I say that Emily Wilding Davison did commit suicide in the aims to become a martyr and be remembered for as long as is necessary to remind everyone who does not know about the rights of women. And in these aims she has succeeded.





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