Posts Tagged Emily Wilding Davison

Suffrage Stories: The Mysterious Mrs Alice Green, Emily Wilding Davison And Kitty Marion

In the Introduction to my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide I wrote:

‘Although women may be “hidden from history” they are not, on the whole, hidden from the Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths nor from the Principal Registry of the Family Division (in England and Wales) or the General Register Office in Scotland.’ 

However there is no getting away from the fact that, despite one’s best efforts, there are some women who resist all attempts at discovery. One such is the rather mysterious ‘Mrs Alice Green’ who we come across in the intertwined stories of Emily Wilding Davison and Kitty Marion.

For instance, in The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison (p 131-32)  Liz Stanley and Ann Morley tell us that for some months in 1913 Emily Davison was staying with Mrs Green at 133 Clapham Road. We  assume that it was from here that on 4 June she set out for the WSPU office and then the Derby. They also note The Suffragette (13 June 1913) as mentioning that a Mrs Green was at Emily’s bedside in the Epsom Cottage Hospital. However, although Stanley and Morley do so much to reveal other branches of Emily’s friendship network they pass Mrs Green by without comment.

And I’m not surprised –  because ‘Mrs Alice Green’ is more resistant than most to the historian’s intrusive gaze. But, lifting the dusty Victorian curtain, the earliest sighting I have of her is at the Dover Register Office on 11 June 1898 where, as ‘Alice Kellie’, spinster, 26 years old, she married Edward Basil Green. The couple each gave their address as 4 Eastbrook Place, Dover.

But who was ‘Alice Kellie’? From searching through all the resources of Ancestry and FindmyPast I could find no suitable candidate and was sufficiently intrigued to order a copy of the marriage certificate in the hope it might offer a clue. Well, the only extra information it gave me about ‘Alice Kellie’ was that she was the daughter of ‘James Kellie (deceased), boot (or book?) dealer’. That actually didn’t get me any further because I couldn’t find a trace in any census of a suitable James Kellie. Who is to know if Registrars are given the true facts? I can find sufficient evidence in my own family history to know that they often are not.

On the other hand I had no difficulty in uncovering the background of the bridegroom. Edward Basil Green had been born in 1873 in Folkestone, the youngest son of Samuel Richard Green ( 1837-1882),  a mechanical engineer, and the grandson of Edward Green, a Yorkshire ironmaster and founder of E. Green and Son. At the time of the marriage he would have been 25 years old – yet the certificate has his age as 27. The bride’s age is given as 26. If the bridegroom felt compelled to add a couple of years could this mean that the bride was perhaps rather older. Who’s to know!

What the marriage certificate did tell me was that no member from either family was there to witness the marriage. The certificate is signed by the wife of the Registrar and by either the wife or the daughter (they both had the same name) of the tobacconist whose shop was next to the Register Office. This lack of family support may be explained by the next sighting I have of the happy couple – as they became parents of a son (Edward Basil Green) on 27 August 1898. It looks as though Alice Kellie was about seven months pregnant when she married Edward Green.

And that is the last I time I catch sight of Alice Green before she appears 15 years or so later as a friend and supporter of Emily Wilding Davison. I cannot see that either she or her husband were on the electoral roll as inhabitants of 133 Clapham Road and, indeed, cannot spot them in London until they appear on the 1921 electoral roll (with their son) living at Powis Terrace in north Kensington. From 1930 until 1939 Alice and Basil (as her husband was known) continued to  live in this area – now at 13 Colville Mansions.

In the meantime Mrs Green, as well as supporting Emily Davison, had also helped Kitty Marion, being one of three (Dr Violet Jones and Mary Leigh were the others) who took her to Paris on 31 May 1914 to show Christabel Pankhurst the result of the treatment that she had suffered in prison. As Kitty Marion was on the run at the time as a ‘mouse’, Alice Green was taking something of a risk in accompanying her.

In 1915 Mrs Alice Green was secretary of the Emily Davison Club that Mary Leigh had formed to perpetuate their friend’s memory. In October 1915 Mrs Green was one of those who contributed towards Kitty Marion’s fare to the US – the party to bid her farewell was held at the Emily Davison Club. Meetings of the Club were held in 144 High Holborn, which housed the offices of the Women’s Freedom League and the WFL’s Minerva Cafe.  Over a period of years, from the 1920s until at least 1938, the Greens were also, with others, such as Charlotte Despard, Elizabeth Knight, Octavia Lewin, leaseholders of 144 High Holborn.

From her involvement with the suffrage movement I get the impression that Mrs Green was reasonably well off, although I cannot discover how her husband was employed. The family does not appear in the 1911 census – presumably they followed the WFL/WSPU boycott. As a mechanical engineer did he, perhaps, work for the family firm?

Any difficulties there may have been over the shotgun wedding had long since been forgotten. In 1923 Edward Basil Green was left £10,000 in the will of his uncle, Sir Edward Green, and many years later his son was the executor of the will of one of his Green aunts.

It’s not only Alice Green’s birth that is obscure, but, very surprisingly, I cannot even discover when she died. Her husband was living at Minehead when he died in 1958 – but probate was granted to a solicitor (and not, rather surprisingly, to his son) and I haven’t gone so far as to investigate his will.

The career of Alice and Basil Green’s son is rather easier to follow – he became chairman of Doulton, retiring in 1963. I wonder if his descendants have any information about ‘Mrs Alice Green’ – or are aware of the part she played in supporting two of the most militant of the suffragettes?

 

 

 

 

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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison: Centennial Celebrations

WHRThe Women’s History Review asked me to write a ‘Viewpoint’ about the 2013 100th anniversary commemoration of the death of Emily Wilding Davison.

EWD Funeral Procession Programme

The resulting article – ‘Emily Wilding Davison: centennial celebrations’ – is now available to read online at the WHR website. The first 50 viewers can access it free here. After the 50 viewings are exhausted, access, I’m afraid, is charged. But you can, of course, always read a print copy in your library!

EWD funeral

 

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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison or Harold Hewitt?

Emily Davison at the Derby 4 June 1913 or Harold Hewitt at Ascot 20 June 1913

Emily Davison at the Derby 4 June 1913 or Harold Hewitt at Ascot 20 June 1913

For many years, since I acquired this photograph, I had thought it showed Emily Davison lying on the Derby racetrack on 4 June 1913, tended by policemen.

However, it has just been suggested to me that it in fact shows Harold Hewitt who, at Ascot just over two weeks later ran in front of the racing horses, with a ‘suffragist’ flag in one hand and a fully-loaded revolver in the other,  in what was deemed a ‘copycat’ action. For details of the event and Hewitt’s action see Lesley Gray’s blog.

Although I have no firm evidence one way or the other, I am minded to believe that the photograph is of Hewitt. There is little to go on but the narrow belt and slanting side pocket do indicate trousers rather than a skirt. Hewitt was, apparently, wearing a loose Norfolk-type jacket which may well be the one in the picture. The filmed images of Emily Davison with which we are now so well acquainted do indicate a rather fuller skirt – with petticoats.

In addition to the information given in Lesley’s blog, I can tell you that Harold Charles Hewitt, who had a Cambridge degree, came from a family with a large estate at Hope End in Herefordshire had lived for lengthy periods of time in Canada and Switzerland and in 1913  was, apparently, planning to go and farm in Africa.

The night before Ascot he had stayed at a hotel in Hart Street, Bloomsbury (perhaps the Kingsley Hotel, right next to St George’s where Emily Davison’s memorial service had been held on 14 June). He had, according to the report in The Times, been present at Emily Davison’s ‘funeral’ -although whether in the church or taking part in the procession is not made clear. The newspaper reports concentrate on his interest in anti-vivisection and apparent hatred of horse races rather than on any particular suffrage sympathies. Tenants at Hope End who knew Hewitt reported that ‘he had always been eccentric on religious matters’.

Harold Hewitt died in 1961 aged c 86, a comparatively wealthy man, the head injury he sustained at Ascot in 1911 having done little to shorten his long life.

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Suffrage Stories: Parliamentary Radio Interviews Recorded At The Emily Wilding Davison Event In The House Of Commons, Tuesday 4 June 2013

Alison McGovern MP5 June 2013

100 years since Emily Wilding Davison, the Suffragette died Parliament pays tribute to her

Westminster has paid tribute to the Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison 100 years after she was knocked down by the King’s Horse at Epsom races.

Kate Frye Cover“Parliament and Votes for Women” The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art and Parliament Week, paid tribute to Emily with a special tour of the places in Westminster Emily and others targeted with her Suffrage militant activities.

Boni Sones, our Executive Producer, spoke to the Labour MP Alison McGovern, Elizabeth Crawford, the suffragette historian, and Irene Cockroft, of the Bourne Hall Museum in Ewell, Surrey. All had their own Emily stories, including an eye witness account of Emily’s funeral procession from Kate Frye.

Listen to the interview…

Download this interview (.mp3 format, file size: 14.5MB) Iright click and then click on ‘open link in new tab’ button/

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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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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison and Kate Frye – Derby Day 1913

The memorial brooch to Emily Davison that Mary Leigh kept all her life

The memorial brooch to Emily Davison that Mary Leigh kept all her life, I can’t explain the scribbles!

In yesterday’s post I explained that on the evening of 3 June 1913 Emily Davison went to Kensington, to the WSPU Summer Fair. I think it likely that the idea of doing ‘something’ next day at the Derby only crystallised during the course of that evening or night.

For, the next morning, Emily travelled into town from 133 Clapham Road, where we believe she was staying with her friend, Mrs Alice Green, in order to visit WSPU headquarters in Kingsway and acquire two WSPU flags. The journey she would have followed involved travelling on the City and South London Railway (now the Northern line) to Bank, changing there to the Central line and exiting at British Museum, a station long since incorporated into Holborn station. From there it was a short walk to WSPU headquarters at Lincoln’s Inn House.

A WSPU flag

A WSPU flag

If she had planned in advance to travel to Epsom that day, Emily would surely have picked up the flags earlier. It would have been much easier to travel from Clapham to Victoria, without making a detour into Holborn. As it was it would appear that she rolled up the flags, which are made from quite heavy woollen material, pinned them inside the back of her coat (according to the police report) and set off for Victoria.

Victoria Station

Victoria Station

As I have explained in an earlier post, at Victoria it is more than likely that the only ticket Emily could buy, whether she wanted it or not, was a special Derby Day  excursion return – at the not inconsiderable price of 8 shillings.  The one she travelled took her to Epsom Downs station, close to the Grandstand, but quite a distance from Tattenham Corner. She may have arrived around the middle of the day, possibly in time for the first race.

The Derby began at 3.01pm. As the horses approached Tattenham Corner a mere 4 seconds elapsed between Emily Davison ducking under the rails and being knocked flying by Anmer. The horse got to his feet and the crowd rushed forward to surround Emily Davison and Herbert Jones, the jockey.

The main witness, a policeman, Frank Bunn, who was standing near to the point where Emily went under the rail,  made clear at the inquest that there was no identification of  Emily until after she was admitted to Epsom Cottage Hospital. The identification may have come from the marking on a handkerchief in her pocket. Here is the complete inventory of Emily’s possessions, as noted by Frank Bunn.

  • ‘On her jacket being removed I found 2 Suffragette flags, 1½ yards long by ¾ yards wide, each consisting of green, white and purple stripes, folded up and pinned to the back of her jacket, on the inside.
  • On person, 1 purse containing 3/8¾d.,
  • 1 return half railway ticket from Epsom Race Course to Victoria No 0315,
  • 8 ½d stamps,
  • 1 helper’s pass for Suffragette Summer Festival, Empress Rooms, High Street, Kensington for 4th June 1913,
  • 1 race card,
  • some envelopes and writing paper,
  • 1 handkerchief Emily Davison Mrs. E.W.D 8 88.
  • 2 postal order counterfoils No. 790/435593 for 2/6, ‘crossed’ written in ink thereon, one 20H/924704 for 7/6 E.Gore 1/4/13 written in ink thereon,
  • one insurance ticket dated May 10th 1913 on G.E. railway to and from New Oxford Street,
  • 1 key,
  • 1 small memo book’

Some of these items survive in the collection of the Women’s Library @ LSE

As she lay on the racecourse, Emily Davison was tended by Mrs Catherine Warburg, a member of the wealthy banking family, a woman with, the inquest reported, some nursing experience. The Warburgs’ had an estate nearby in Surrey and,  quite incidentally, one of Mrs Warburg’s sons, Edmund, was to become an eminent botanist.

While Herbert Jones was carried into the racecourse ambulance, Emily had to rely  on the goodwill of a race goer and was taken to Epsom hospital in the car of Johann Faber, who lived at nearby Ewell and, among his other activities, was the Danish consul general in London.

The reverse of Mary Leigh's Emily WIlding Davison brooch, annotated, characteristically,  in Mary's handwriting

The reverse of Mary Leigh’s Emily WIlding Davison brooch, annotated, characteristically, in Mary’s handwriting

There is no contemporary evidence to suggest that Emily Davison was accompanied to Epsom by anybody else. Mary Richardson, another militant suffragette, claimed, both in her autobiography and in a BBC interview, to have been standing near Emily and to have seen her dash onto the race track. However, I do not believe this. She wrote the book- and recorded the interview – in 1953, forty years after that Derby Day. She was impoverished and to create some hype placed herself at the scene of every major suffragette drama. This is, I feel, a pity as the parts of the book which can be tied to historical fact do have power, but in 1953 (as, perhaps, now) the public only wanted drama from the suffragettes. If she had really been close at Epsom on 4 June 1913 she would surely have written about this – or it would have been reported – in The Suffragette, even if not called as a witness at the inquest. Moreover she rather gilds the lily by claiming to be at the Derby to sell copies of The Suffragette, a paper that, at this very time, the Home Office was not permitting to be sold. I cannot imagine that the masses of police manning the Derby would have allowed Mary Richardson to ply her wares. But such is the power of the media that careful reasoning is always trumped by the easy soundbite.

Kate Frye coverIf we do not know what Mary Richardson was really doing for the Cause on Derby Day, there is no doubt what Emily Davison was doing and, indeed, what Kate Frye, another stalwart campaigner, working at this time in Fakenham, Norfolk, as organizer for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage, was up to.

Kate’s diary entry for 4 June 1913 tells us that she was unsuccessful in her search for a chairwoman for a meeting (the reason often given was that whichever local worthy she approached did not want in any way to be associated with the militant suffragettes, even though the NCS was, as its name suggests, a constitutional society) and spent some hours walking round the town, canvassing for members. A thankless task and, of course, hardly the stuff of drama.

She ends the day’s entry with ‘My good landlady talks more than I need but she seems to like me and as she has never had a lady lodger before I must make a good impression.’ So, in her own way, Kate was breaking boundaries on that day 100 years ago. I am sure we are all grateful that, as women, we are not barred as lodgers. Presumably in previous years that ‘kind landlady’ had turned women away, doubtless worrying that they would give her house a bad reputation. My point being that revolutions require a succession of infinitely small changes – as well as the grand gesture.

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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison On The Eve Of The Derby 1913

On Tuesday  3 June 1913  Emily Davison was present at the Suffragette Summer Fair, held in the  Empress Rooms, on the north side of Kensington High Street, just  west of Kensington Palace.  

Advertising the 'All in a Summer Fair, June 1913

Advertising the ‘All in a Garden Fair’, June 1913

The WSPU’s fund-raising  ‘All In a Garden Fair’ saw the hired room transformed into  ‘a beautiful rose garden under an Italian sky’, lined with pergolas wreathed in pink rambling roses. In the centre of the hall was an illuminated fountain, which was  set in a grass lawn, surrounded by clipped box trees and garden seats. This verdant scene was surrounded by stalls  selling WSPU merchandise and all kinds of  goods donated by members. The Ladies’ Aeolian Orchestra and the Actresses’ Franchise League contributed live performances. A centrepiece of the Fair was a statue of Joan of Arc, who had come to prominence with her beatification in 1909 and by 1913 was very much a symbolic heroine to  suffragettes.

Emily Davison’s biographer, Gertrude Colmore, reported that Emily attended the Fair with her ‘Comrade’, Mary Leigh, and that ‘Saluting, she stood there, reading the words upon the pedestal,  “Fight on, and God will give victory”‘ These , reportedly Joan of Arc’s last words, were those that were to appear all too soon on banners draped on Emily Davison’s grave.

Kitty Marion

Kitty Marion

Another suffragette who places herself with Emily Davison at the Fair was Kitty Marion, music hall artiste and militant suffragette. In her unpublished autobiography she states that, with Emily Davison, she was among a group of friends who discussed the possibility of making a protest the next day at Epsom.  As she remembered it nothing was decided but. ‘Before we parted that night, Emily gave me a tiny green chamois purse containing a sovereign for “‘munitions I might need soon”‘.  We have only Kitty Marion’s word that Emily Davison made this cryptic comment to which, of course, she then gives her own interpretation; I shall publish a post in a few days time recounting What Kitty Did Next.  Did  Emily Davison, who we know was by no means well off and with no employment,  on the evening before the Derby really give away the large sum of a sovereign (£1 then, worth about £65 today). It doesn’t seem very likely, but, if she did, what could she have meant by it?

For, although Emily Davison is not known to have undertaken any militant acts since the end of 1912, Kitty Marion most certainly had.  While standing talking on 3 June at the ‘All in a Garden Fair’, it was with the knowledge that in the course of the previous few weeks she  she had been responsible for setting fire to at least three houses – the latest, from the evidence of her scrapbook, being a house in Folkestone on 17 May. One of these houses, severely damaged on 15 April, was ‘Levetleigh’, the Hastings home of an MP.  In addition she had set fire to a succession of stationary railway carriages  in places such as Teddington, around London’s outer suburbs.

So, as the women stood together ‘under the Italian sky’, at least one of them had, metaphorically and, probably, literally, traces of paraffin on her hands. It is difficult to believe that Emily Davison was not aware of the arsonists in her circle and that for all the the ‘beautiful rose garden’ that surrounded them and the girls in virginal white standing outside the Empress Rooms inviting passers-by to step in, the atmosphere within the group was not increasingly febrile. For reasons that I will put forward in tomorrow’s post, I think it was in the course of this evening – and not before – that Emily Davison made up her mind to take the train the next day to Epsom – and the Derby.

 

 

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Suffrage Stories: Emily Wilding Davison And That Return Ticket

Emily Wilding Davison

Emily Wilding Davison, wearing a WSPU’ Boadicea’,  brooch, her ‘Holloway’ brooch and her hunger-strike medal. The latter was buried with her.

Ever since 1988, when  the Women’s Library@LSE  (or, as it was then, the Fawcett Library) was given, by descendants of Rose Lamartine Yates, items that had belonged to Emily Wilding Davison, the fact that amongst these was her return ticket, issued on 4 June for travel between Victoria Station and Epsom Race Course, has been considered important in assessing whether or not she intended to act in such a way as to harm herself. Click here to view an image of the ticket,  an item in a digital exhibition launched to mark the 100th anniversary of Emily Davison’s death.

The argument was, in essence, that if Emily Davison had a return ticket she intended to return. However, no contemporary report, either at the inquest, in newspapers or in the memoirs of her friends, made such a deduction. The first occasion on which this theory was put forward, as far as I can discover, was  in a 1988 Guardian article celebrating the gift to the Fawcett Library.

Some while ago I decided that this lack of contemporary comment required further investigation and that in order to determine what message the ticket carried it was necessary to look more closely at the workings of pre-First World War rail routes between London and Epsom, in particular the arrangements that were in place on 4 June 1913.  Experience has taught me that a lack of awareness of just such quotidian details can often lead historians astray. Thus, before attempting to interpret Emily Davison’s motive on Derby Day, it is necessary to understand the detail that shaped her day.

I quickly realised that, as Derby Day has dwindled in importance – no longer the epitome of a wonderful day out for Londoners – so has an appreciation of the logistics that 100 years ago brought hundreds of  thousands of  Londoners, of all social classes, by carriage, car and, most importantly, by train to Epsom. For Derby Day in 1913 was still the Derby Day of William Powell Frith’s painting and of the wonderfully descriptive scenes depicted by George Moore in Esther Waters, almost a national holiday, racing augmented by funfairs and sideshows. For instance, on 4 June 1913  many London theatres cancelled their matinees, knowing that their audiences would be elsewhere.

First I researched the route that Emily Davison had taken. From newspaper advertisements placed by the train companies in the Manchester Guardian and the Times I saw that on Derby Day virtually all the usual train services were suspended and special trains ran to the three Epsom stations – Epsom Town, Epsom Downs and Tattenham Corner.

Plaque showing map of L B & S C Railway system at Victoria Station

Plaque showing map of L B & S C Railway system at Victoria Station

Each of these stations was linked to a different rail company. Emily Davison’s ticket was issued from Victoria Station. I discovered that the only company that ran trains from Victoria was the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, the rather circuitous route taken by the line ending at Epsom Downs station.

Each of the rail companies advertised the virtues of its Epsom station – so, while the Charing Cross/London Bridge line trumpeted Tattenham Corner as the only station on the race course (and, indeed, at this time trains only travelled to that station on race days), the L B & S C Railway claimed Epsom Downs as the station nearest the Grandstand – and described it as the ‘Racecourse Station’. The return ticket gives the route for return as ‘Epsom Race Course to Victoria’.

On Derby Day 1913 all the companies put on special excursion trains. The L B & S C ran ‘cheap trains’ from Victoria up until 9.38 am and after that – between 10.15 am and 1.38 pm – put on 17 ‘fast trains’. The cost of Emily Davison’s ticket – 8s 6d  ‘with no particular class of carriage guaranteed’ – does not seem cheap. In 1913 the WSPU paid its organizers £2 10s a week – and Emily did not even have the luxury of such employment; the 2013 equivalent of the ticket price is over £40.The advertisements do not give much detail about prices.  No ‘8/6 ticket’ is mentioned, but the ‘ Pullman Limited’ Non-Stop train that left Victoria at 12.15 cost 12/6 (return) and another Derby Day ‘Special Through Train’ from Willesden cost 6/6 so I would conclude that Emily Davison caught one of the ‘fast trains’ from Victoria to Epsom Downs.

Epsom Downs station on Derby Day, 1907 (image courtesy of Nick Catford's 'Disused Stations' website)

Epsom Downs station, packed with trains, on Derby Day, 1907 (image courtesy of Nick Catford’s ‘Disused Stations’ website)

The advertised arrangements for Derby Day stress, as I have mentioned, that certain ordinary services to Epsom were suspended and others were altered. A reading of the advertisement would strongly suggest that it was not possible, on Derby Day, to buy any ticket from Victoria to Epsom Downs other than one that included a return element. The L B & S C Railway concentrated on running only ‘excursion’ trains on Derby Day, intent on transporting the hordes looking forward to this highlight in the holiday calendar, and that these tickets were, of necessity, ‘return’.

My feeling is that the explanation for no contemporary comment being made of the fact that Emily Davison had bought a return ticket – quite an expensive ticket – was that her contemporaries would have recognised that Derby Day excursion tickets were by their very nature ‘return’. On that day railway companies operating between London and Epsom  had a captive market and made the most of it.

Moreover, even if  Emily Davison had not expected to be injured at Epsom, she could hardly have been certain of returning to London that day. If, when she bought her ticket, she was then intending to step onto the race course and cause disruption to the Derby she would surely have known that, at the very least, she would to be arrested. I would suggest that the fact that she had notepaper, envelopes and stamps in her pockets (she does not appear to have been carrying any kind of bag) might indicate that she had thought it would be likely that she would need to write a letter or two that day, possibly from a police cell.

I would suggest that it does not seem likely that, impoverished as she was, Emily Davison, with the expectation of, at the least, detention, would have spent so much on a return ticket if she had not been compelled to do so.

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Clare Balding’s Secrets Of A Suffragette: Channel 4 Sunday 26 May 8pm

Balding press release

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Now Published: Campaigning For The Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary, Edited By Elizabeth Crawford


Kate Frye cover

An extract:

‘Saturday June 14th 1913. [Kate is lodging in Baker Street, London] I had had a black coat and skirt sent there for Miss Davison’s funeral procession and the landlady had given me permission to change in her room. I tore into my black things then we tore off by tube to Piccadilly and had some lunch in Lyons. But the time was getting on – and the cortege was timed to start at 2 o’clock from Victoria.

We saw it splendidly at the start until we were driven away from our position and then could not see for the crowds and then we walked right down Buckingham Palace Rd and joined in the procession at the end. It was really most wonderful – the really organised part – groups of women in black with white lilies – in white and in purple – and lots of clergymen and special sort of pall bearers each side of the coffin.

She gave her life publicly to make known to the public the demand of Votes for Women – it was only fitting she should be honoured publicly by the comrades. It must have been most imposing.

The crowds were thinner in Piccadilly but the windows were filled but the people had all tramped north and later on the crowds were tremendous. The people who stood watching were mostly reverent and well behaved. We were with the rag tag and bobtail element but they were very earnest people. It was tiring. Sometimes we had long waits – sometimes the pace was tremendous. Most of the time we could hear a band playing the funeral march.

Just before Kings Cross we came across Miss Forsyth (a fellow worker for the New Constitutional Society) – some of the New Constitutional Society had been marching with the Tax Resisters. I had not seen them or should have joined in. I had a chat with her.

Near Kings Cross the procession lost all semblance of a procession – one crowded process – everyone was moving. We lost our banner – we all got separated and our idea was to get away from the huge crowd of unwashed unhealthy creatures pressing us on all sides. We went down the Tube way. But I did not feel like a Tube and went through to the other side finding ourselves in Kings Cross station.

Saying we wanted tea we went on the platform and there was the train – the special carriage for the coffin – and, finding a seat, sank down and we did not move until the train left. Lots of the processionists were in the train, which was taking the body to Northumberland for interrment – and another huge procession tomorrow. To think she had had to give her life because men will not listen to the claims of reason and of justice. I was so tired I felt completely done. We found our way to the refreshment room and there were several of the pall bearers having tea. ‘

Campaigning for the Vote tells, in her own words, the efforts of a working suffragist to instil in the men and women of England the necessity of ‘votes for women’ in the years before the First World War.

The detailed diary kept all her life by Kate Parry Frye (1878-1959) has been edited to cover 1911-1915, years she spent as a paid organiser for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage.  A  biographical introduction positions Kate’s ‘suffrage years’ in the context of her long life., a knowledge of her background giving the reader a deeper appreciation of the way in which she undertook her work.  Editorial comment adds further information about the people Kate meets and the situations in which she finds herself.

Campaigning for the Vote  constitutes that near impossibility – completely new primary material on the ‘votes for women’ campaign, published for the first time 100 years after the events it records.

With Kate for company we experience the reality of the ‘votes for women’ campaign as, day after day, in London and in the provinces, she knocks on doors, arranges meetings, trembles on platforms, speaks from carts in market squares, village greens, and seaside piers, enduring indifference, incivility and even the threat of firecrackers under her skirt. Kate’s words bring to life the world of the itinerant organiser – a world of train journeys, of complicated luggage conveyance, of hotels – and hotel flirtations – , of boarding houses, of landladies, and of the ‘quaintness’ of fellow boarders.

This was not a way of life to which she was born, for her years as an organiser were played out against the catastrophic loss of family money and enforced departure from a much-loved home. Before 1911 Kate had had the luxury of giving her time as a volunteer to the suffrage cause; now she depended on it for her keep. No other diary gives such an extensive account of the working life of a suffragist, one who had an eye for the grand tableau – such as following Emily Wilding Davison’s cortége through the London streets – as well as the minutiae of producing an advertisement for a village meeting.

Moreover Kate Frye gives us the fullest account to date of the workings of the previously shadowy New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. She writes at length of her fellow workers, never refraining from discussing their egos and foibles. After the outbreak of war in August 1914 Kate continued to work for some time at the society’s headquarters, helping to organize its war effort, her diary entries allowing us to experience her reality of life in war-time London.

ITV has selected Kate Frye – to be portrayed by a leading young actress – as one of the main characters in a 2014 documentary series to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

See also ‘Kate Frye in “Spitalfields Life”‘ and ‘Kate Frye in “History Workshop Online”‘

Wrap-around paper covers, 226 pp, over 70 illustrations, all drawn from Kate Frye’s personal archive. ISBN 978 1903427 75 0 Copies available from Francis Boutle Publishers, or from Elizabeth Crawford – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£14.99 +UK postage £2.60. Please ask for international postage cost), or from all good bookshops. In stock at London Review Bookshop, Foyles, Daunt Books, Persephone Bookshop, Newham Bookshop and National Archives Bookshop.

'Campaigning for the Vote' - Front and back cover of wrappers

‘Campaigning for the Vote’ – Front and back cover of wrappers

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Suffrage Stories/Suffragette Jewellery: Mary Leigh’s Emily Wilding Davison Brooch

EWD brooch frontThis circular brooch, containing a photograph of Emily Wilding Davison in academic dress, formerly belonged to her friend and champion, Mary Leigh. The photograph of Emily Wilding Davison (for the photographer/publisher of the postcard see here) is rather worn and has a little ink scribble on it – though what the intention – if any – of this is, I cannot say.

The photo is held in the brooch frame by a card showing  Sylvia Pankhurst’s WSPU design, in purple, white and green, of ‘the sower’. This may originally been a component in a WSPU badge.  Written on it in capital letters, in Mary Leigh’s idiosyncratic style, is ‘LIBERTY. NO SURRENDER. E.W.D.’.Reverse of EWD brooch

This is a piece that, unlike so much else on the market, clearly merits the description ‘suffragette jewellery’.  I do not think that this commemoration photo of Emily Wilding Davison was issued by the WSPU in this particular style of circular brooch, but suspect that Mary Leigh herself put the photo in it. The brooch is edged with alternating little pink and white stones. It is worth noting that Mary Leigh, even with her close acquaintance with WSPU imagery and branding, did not bother to select or commission a brooch with stones reflecting more closely the WSPU colours.

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Suffrage Stories: What else is in Emily Wilding Davison’s grave?

A while ago I acquired a small collection of items that had once belonged to Mrs Mary Leigh, the leader of the WSPU fife and drum band and close friend and life-long supporter of Emily Wilding Davison. Among these was a copy of Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road, published by the Arden Press, Letchworth (1912), containing a lengthy inscription by Mary Leigh on the free front endpaper.

From studying the handwriting I deduced that her comments had been made at two different times – probably decades apart. At the top of the page is an ink inscription ‘From E.W.D. 1912’.- which, I think, was not a presentation inscription from Emily Wilding Davison, but a note by Mary Leigh to commemorate the gift to her. The Emily Wilding Davison archive held by the Women’s Library contains another volume of Whitman’s verse, given by ‘Comrade Davison to Comrade Leigh’. Whitman was clearly a favourite, a poet who spoke to the women – eulogising their bond of close comradeship – and in The Song of the Road Mary Leigh, as in the Whitman in the Women’s Library, has annotated particular verses with some vehemence. The little book itself had clearly been well used; laid in the title-page fold of this copy was a pressed flower.

However it is another piece of information that Mary Leigh added to her endpaper writings that particularly interested me. She wrote: ‘I placed one [i.e. a book] like this from L C. Lytton in E.W.D.’s hand. ‘ In biro, at a later date, as though giving a fuller explanation, she has amplified these details – so that the whole now reads: ‘1913 June 14 in her coffin at Epsom Mortuary I placed one like this (Walt Whitman) from L C. Lytton (Lady Constance Lytton) in E.W.D’s hand open at the page she loved so well. I also placed her Hunger Strike Medals and the 8 Bars of Forcible Feeding also the Medal of Jeanne D’Arc to Fight on God will give the Victory’.

‘Fight on God will give Victory’, Joan of Arc’s assurance, given at her trial, is the message emblazoned on the banner carried at Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral, both in London and then draping the grave in Morpeth.

Here is Emily Wilding Davison wearing her Hunger Strike Medal, with still, I think, four bars, each commemorating a hunger strike and consequent episode of forcible feeding. Further imprisonment lay in the future. It is interesting that Mary Leigh specifically writes of  ‘Medals’ in the plural. As well as the Hunger Strike Medal, with its 8 bars, she may have been referring to the ‘Holloway’ badge, received for an earlier imprisonment, that Emily is wearing in the photograph. In addition, I suspect, but cannot be sure, that she may also have, pinned on her other lapel, a WSPU ‘Boadicea’ brooch.

However I have not yet been able to deconstruct Mary Leigh’s mention of the ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ Medal’. As far as I know there was no WSPU medal directly associated with Joan of Arc – although, 1912 having been the 500th anniversary of her death, she loomed large in the popular – particularly suffragette – imagination, Elsie Howey rode as ‘Joan of Arc’ in Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral procession. It may have been that EWD particularly treasured a medal – there were many issued – acquired in the quincentenary year.

Mary Leigh remained Emily Wilding Davison’s champion for the remainder of her life. Out of a meagre income she arranged each year for a Morpeth florist to supply an expensive bouquet of flowers and travelled north every June- even well into old age –  to lay them at EWD’s grave in St Mary’s Churchyard. The rather pathetic correspondence concerning these arrangements may be read in the Mary Leigh Papers at the Women’s Library. The florist was a credit to her profession, entirely kind and helpful.

Little would Mary Leigh have expected – although she may well have approved (you can never be sure – she was a contrary character) – that into the 21st century EWD’s grave would have become a shrine – the plot now immaculately restored. So many myths have accrued to the memory of Emily Wilding Davison that it is something of a relief to be able to produce a piece of primary evidence, in the form of this copy of Song of the Road, that allows the visitor standing in front of the Morpeth obelisk to picture, with some assurance, the moment in the Epsom Mortuary as Mary Leigh laid in the open coffin Lady Constance Lytton’s copy of this small volume of verse, together with the hard-earned Hunger Strike Medal.

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