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Emily Wilding Davison Memorial Campaign Launched

Tue 11th Dec 2012

A new campaign to honour the memory of the militant Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison on the 100th anniversary of her tragic death was launched on 29 November at the Firebox Café in King’s Cross.

Emily Wilding Davison was a remarkably courageous woman who, as believer in the effectiveness of direct action, was involved in numerous protests on behalf of the struggle for the vote and wider social progress. She remains an example for people engaged in political struggles today and should never be forgotten.

Emily broke into the House of Commons three times in attempts to gain publicity for the cause of women’s suffrage and she was the first to use arson in the campaign when she set fire to a post box.

Her growing militancy was primarily a response to the rising state violence meted out against the Suffragettes with the introduction of the notorious Cat and Mouse Act.

She went on hunger strike to be treated as a political prisoner, an action taken by activists on numerous occasions in Britain and wherever people have felt the need to resist oppression, most recently in Turkey where thousands of Kurdish political prisoners recently ended a sixty-day hunger strike.

Emily died of injuries sustained during her last dramatic and very public protest when on 4 June 1913 she stepped in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. This event remains well known from the grainy newsreel footage of the tragic incident.

Speaking to a packed audience of about eighty people at the launch, Katherine Connelly, co-ordinator for the Emily Wilding Davison Memorial Campaign and author of a forthcoming biography of Sylvia Pankhurst, declared that Emily remained a real inspiration for people campaigning for social justice today. ‘’The life, struggle and death of Emily are a real reminder not to ever be complacent about the rights and freedoms that we have won,’’ she said.

The campaign has a very modest aim which is to achieve recognition for Emily with a minute’s silence at the Epsom Derby in June this year. The campaign is about remembering the quiet courage and determination of a woman who spent her entire adult life engaged in political struggle.

Emily was not simply interested in winning the vote alone. As a teacher, Emily was active in the Workers’ Education Association and the Central Labour College. She supported striking women workers in the East End recognising that their struggle was part of the same fight for social justice.

The campaign has already achieved impressive support from trade unionists, historians and activists. Adding their voices of support at the launch meeting were Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers; Dr Helen Pankhurst, the granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst; Dr Diane Atkinson, historian of the Suffragette movement; and Peter Barratt, the great grandson of the Leicester working class suffragette Alice Hawkins. The Socialist History Society has added its name to the campaign’s growing list of supporters.

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