SUFFRAGETTE REMEMBERED WITH SONGS AND FLOWERS

To mark International Women’s Day, we gathered in the ancient church of St Mary’s in Morpeth to celebrate the life of Suffragette martyr, Emily Wilding Davison

Wearing suffragette ribbons, our gathering of North East women (and a few men!) sang hymns, joined in songs with Werca’s Folk, listened to amusing and spirited words from Northumberland’s female High Sheriff (who happens to be a reverend too – how Emily would have approved!) and the Romanian consul – also a woman.

Afterwards we were given long-stemmed white carnations and processed behind Emily’s descendants to her graveside.  Flowers were laid to the sound of Werca’s Folk singing the rousing Women’s Marseillaise that Emily would have known well.  Then there were hot drinks and a buffet in the nearby hall – the whole event laid on by Northumberland County Council.

(I took this with my phone, balanced against the railings, so that’s why it’s on a tilt!)

Next year is the centenary of Emily Davison’s death – there will be many events to mark the occasion – I’ll keep you updated here.

“The tranquil graveyard was so overrun with mourners that Maggie and Rose could not get near to see the coffin lowered into the ground at the Davison burial mound, so they patiently waited their turn among the lofty pines. Some time later they were able to approach the iron-fenced memorial which was almost hidden under the heaps of wreaths and floral messages. The scent of the flowers was overpowering as Maggie tossed her own modest purple iris onto the coffin.

‘I’ll fight on, I promise!’ Maggie whispered, as around her women openly wept.”  

Extract from my novel THE SUFFRAGETTE

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My Family’s Links To The Suffragette Movement

We made a short video, explaining some of the background to my book, The Suffragette! This was filmed in Morpeth in Northumberland, with the grave of Emily Wilding Davison as the backdrop:

The Suffragette movement was a broad church, with some people getting involved just through personal lobbying, while others, like my Great Aunt Bel, sold newspapers to raise funds for the cause. At the other end of the scale was civil disobedience (my family was not at home for the 1910 census), or even outright militancy.

Emily Wilding Davison was at the extreme end of this scale. On 4th June 1913 she was run down by the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby, and died of her injuries several days later. Although her exact motivation for entering the race track was never resolved (had she simply intended to cross it? Was she trying to fix a banner or flag to the horse, so that it would cross the line carrying the WSPU colours? Did she intend martyrdom?), footage of the incident was captured by Pathé News, and remains to this day a potent symbol of how desperate was the struggle for women’s suffrage: