Suffrage Stories: Kitty Marion, Emily Wilding Davison And Hurst Park

Emily Wilding Davison died in Epsom Hospital during the afternoon of Sunday 8 June. However, by the previous evening a plan was already afoot to commemorate, if not yet her death, at least her action at the Derby.

Kitty Marion

Kitty Marion

In a previous post I explained that Kitty Marion, one-time music-hall artiste – by 1913 a full-time militant suffragette, wrote in her unpublished autobiography that Emily Davison, on the eve of the Derby had given her a purse containing a sovereign, ‘for munitions’. She went on to say that ‘the following Sunday, when unaware of her death, Betty Giveen and I made good use of the ‘munitions’ Emily had paid for.’ It transpired that  ‘some one living in the vicinity of Hurst Park race course [had] suggested to Clara [aka ‘Betty’] Giveen and me that the Grand Stand there would make a most appropriate beacon, not only as the usual protest but, in honour of our Comrade’s daring deed for which she paid with her life.’

Whether or not Kitty Marion’s story of Emily’s purse and the sovereign is true (I am horribly suspicious of post-event stories that place an autobiographer in the centre of a dramatic scene – cf Mary Richardson) there is no doubt that, on the evening of 8 June, Kitty Marion and Betty Giveen set out for the Hurst Park stadium at Molesey (near Hampton Court), apparently equipped with their ‘munitions’  – a gallon of oil and fire lighters -together with a piece of candle to ignite the oil-soaked material they was to be used as a wick. In the event the ‘fuse’ ignited far too quickly – an hour was supposed to elapse before the blaze started – and the women had to depart in haste. The stadium was gutted.

The women had difficulty, hampered by their skirts, but with the aid of a piece of old carpet they had brought along, in clambering over the fence that  surrounded the grounds and it interests me that in her autobiography (admittedly written many years later)  Kitty Marion specifically comments ‘We both regretted that there was no movie camera to immortalise the comedy of it.’  If the power of the ‘movie cameras’ was in their mind on 8 June, it makes Emily Davison’s positioning of herself at Epsom on 4 June all the more convincing. Movies were by 1913 firmly embedded in the contemporary mindset.

The mistake made over the setting of the fuse rather bears out my contention that  fires, once started, are not easy to control. Suffragette arsonists – as any other fireraiser, male or female – could never be certain that they would not cause injury to themselves or others. They were lucky.

Leaving the stadium ablaze, Kitty and Betty then walked from Molesey to Kew – to the home of Dr and Mrs Casey (and of their militantly WSPU daughter, Eileen) at 25 West Park Road, Kew. [The house is a typical Edwardian semi; I have often walked past it on my way from Kew Gardens station to the National Archives.]  Kitty writes that Mrs Casey,  after meeting her and Betty had invited them to stay at her house. Mrs Casey confirmed this meeting in her trial evidence, reporting that she had met Kitty, for the first time, at the WSPU Summer Fair on the evening of 7 June. Presumably in handing to them a latch key to the house so that they could enter during the night without waking the household, Mrs Casey was aware that they were likely to have committed some law-breaking act and had not, as the defence claimed, been attending a party.

During the course of the 7 June meeting Mrs Casey had told Kitty which room in her house would be free for them and in her evidence said that on the morning of Monday 9 June  ‘she saw Miss Marion with Miss Giveen asleep in a top room’. The report continues, ‘witness opened the door and said “It’s time to get up for breakfast.”‘

Apparently, however, the house was being watched by police and Kitty and Betty were soon arrested there. They had, in fact, encountered a policeman in the early hours of the morning close to Kew station as they were trying to work out the exact location of West Park Road. The newspaper evidence appears to indicate that the police were watching the Caseys’ house, which, if true, would seem to indicate that far more research needs to be done on the deployment of police surveillance against WSPU sympathisers.

On Tuesday 10 June Kitty and Betty were charged at Richmond court and released on bail of £2000 each on sureties partly offered by two wealthy WSPU supporters, Mrs Williams and Mrs Potts.

Although Betty Giveen, who was from Birmingham, had from 4 June been lodging at 7 Great Ormond Street in Holborn and Kitty had digs at 86 Kennington Road, Lambeth, in  court they both named 118 King Henry’s Road, Hampstead, the home of the WSPU Hampstead secretaries, the Misses Collier, as an address that would find them. That evening Kitty Marion returned once again to the Empress Rooms and the WSPU  Summer Fair, where a wreath dedicated to the memory of Emily Davison now rested against the statue of St Joan.

The trial of Kitty Marion and Betty Giveen was held at Guilford on 3 July. Both the newspaper reports and Kitty Marion’s autobiography  record, as Kitty put it, ‘great astonishment at the Freemasonary among suffragettes, for one to trust a mere acquaintance who had never previously been to her house, with a latch key and to bring another, an utter stranger. Neither court nor counsels could grasp the idea’. ‘She was a Suffragette’, said Mrs Casey, ‘that was quite good enough for us. We trust anyone who is a Suffragette.’

Kitty Marion was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude and immediately went on a hunger-and-thirst strike. For much more about Kitty Marion (and Eileen Casey) read their entries in my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide.  There is an interesting blog post about Eileen Casey and her mother, Mrs Isabella Casey, on the National Archives website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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