My Hero: Emily Wilding Davison
A hundred years ago, suffragette Emily Wilding Davis died after colliding with a horse at Epsom. Now modern technology has revealed that she had no intention of killing herself
On 4 June 1913, a woman ran across the racecourse at Epsom while the horses were thundering round the track at 35 miles an hour. She collided with the King’s horse, Anmer, and died four days later.
Emily Wilding Davison was a militant suffragette, and history has rendered her a protean character, taken by different factions and moulded to fit their needs. Martyr, madwoman, maniac or simply mixed-up. But in Northumberland, where I live, there’s no doubt. She’s our local hero. When her body arrived by train to be buried in the family plot in Morpeth, thousands of people lined the streets to pay homage.
Now, 100 years later, events honouring her memory are attracting locals and visitors alike. Emily’s work for the suffrage cause has made her a legend and finally, thanks to modern technology, her actions and motivations are becoming clearer. She wasn’t the only suffragette to die for the cause, but we remember her protest was captured on film. For years it was used to back up the description of Emily as the woman who threw herself under the King’s horse. Now we know she did nothing of the sort. Frame-by-frame examination reveals that she was reaching up towards the horse’s bridle, not hurling herself beneath its hooves. Ill-judged and reckless, yes. But suicidal? I don’t think so.