Today marks 100 years since one of the most famous events in the campaign for women’s suffrage in Britain. 4 June 1913 was the day of the Epsom Derby and at 15.10, just after the leading horses had rounded Tattenham Corner, Emily Wilding Davison, a militant suffragette, ran out from under the railings and into path of two trailing horses. Anmer, the King’s horse, struck Emily with his chest and pitched onto its head while the jockey, Herbert Jones, was thrown and rendered unconscious. The injuries Davison suffered would lead to her death four days later from a fractured skull.
As we have seen in recent television and newspaper coverage, debate has surrounded Davison’s actions since Derby Day 1913 1. Was Emily Davison making a suffrage protest, disrupting the race by attaching a flag in the suffragette colours to the King’s horse? Were her actions part of a wider suffragette demonstration at the Derby or did she act alone? Was she trying to commit suicide? Or, was she simply trying to cross the course in the mistaken belief that all the horses had passed? Intrigued by all these questions, I decided to take a look at a Metropolitan Police file at The National Archives (MEPO 2/1551) which contains police reports, witness statements and notes made in the hours and days following Davison’s actions.