Spectators at the 1913 Epsom Derby (catalogue ref: ZPER 34/142)
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 . 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.
An extract from Dr Vale-Jones' account, 4 June 1913 (catalogue ref: MEPO 2/1551)
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The centenary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement
2013 is the centenary of some of the most prominent events that happened in the name of the women’s suffrage movement. One of the most famous took place on 4 June 1913, when Emily Wilding Davison threw herself in front of King George V’s horse at The Derby in protest at the lack of women’s rights (look out for another post on 4 June). We have some amazing documents held here at The National Archives on Emily Wilding Davison, which were recently filmed for the Channel 4 documentary Clare Balding’s Secrets of a Suffragette shown on Sunday 26 May 2013.
Surveillance photographs of Suffragettes (catalogue ref: AR 1/528)
The story of Emily Wilding Davison, the first martyr in the name of women’s rights, will be preserved in history, but the suffragette movement was more than just the work of one woman. The many records held here at The National Archives are testament to the number of women that bravely fought for justice (a few of which are pictured right – catalogue ref: AR 1/528).
A game of cat and mouse
Another historic event in 1913 was the introduction of the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913, also known as the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’, owing to the way the government seemed to play with prisoners as a cat may with a captured mouse. The Act allowed temporary release, on licence, for suffragettes on hunger strike, until they were well enough to be rearrested and complete their sentence.
Eileen Casey, 1897. Image by kind permission of Sarah Laughton
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Happy International Women’s Day! We have an amazing array of records relating to women’s history here at The National Archives and so what better way to celebrate than to showcase some of our records? There are documents which played a huge part in the establishment of women’s’ rights through to our more puzzling and bizarre records on women’s appearance.
Prompted by the recent debate in the media following Hilary Mantel’s comments on the Duchess of Cambridge, I was particularly interested to see how the image of women, not just female royals, has developed over the course of recent history.
A matter of class?
The National Archives holds a prison record on Lady Constance Lytton (catalogue reference: HO 144/1054/187986), one of the many suffragettes imprisoned whilst campaigning for Votes for Women. Continue reading »
March is Women’s History Month. Just in time, I’d like to share a file I was introduced to last year by our Education department.
The suffrage movement is a common theme when talking about achievements of women in the past, and we certainly hold a wealth of information here, from the force feeding of women on hunger strike, to 1911 census forms when women refused to provide their details to a government they had no say in electing. Although there are so many achievements of women to choose from, this wealth means there is always something more to talk about!
This file, MEPO 3/203, came to my attention while carrying out some research with colleagues on the last Maharajah of the Punjab, Duleep Singh and his family in preparation for last year’s Diversity Week.
However, it wasn’t a member of the Duleep Singh family that caught my eye during our research.
Princess Sophia selling 'The Suffragette' (Image source: http://historysheroes.e2bn.org/)
We looked at a file relating to the Maharajah’s daughter, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh and her involvement with the Suffragettes. This particular file contains police reports on ‘Black Friday’, 18 November 1910, when Suffragettes clashed violently with police in response to the apparent stalling of the Bill in Parliament which would have granted suffrage to women of the upper classes. One particular statement, given by disabled protestor Miss May Billinghust, describes the brutality and humiliation the protestors reported: