The day of our visit was about three weeks after the 100th anniversary of the death of the grave’s incumbent and the evidence of the memorials left to her were still on the grave.
Emily Wilding Davison was a suffragette and a militant one at that. She was arrested a number of times, force fed on numerous occasions and once physically attacked a man she believed to be David Lloyd George – he wasn’t.
She took the Suffragettes’ motto ‘Deeds not Words’ to the limit and, acting on her own initiative, was not averse to the odd spot of violence or arson if it got the message across.
On the night of the 1911 census, she hid herself in a cupboard in St Mary’s Undercroft at the Palace of Westminster so she could legitimately give her address for the census as the Houses of Parliament.
She was a woman with a cause.
But she is most famous for the way in which she died.
On June 4 1913 she threw herself in front of Anmer, King George V’s horse, at the Derby at Epsom. She was trampled by the horse and died of her injuries four days later. Some believe she was trying to commit suicide, others that she was trying to pin a suffragette banner on the bridle of the horse so when Anmer crossed the line he would be flying the colours.
Either way, she died for a cause she believed passionately in and, whether you agree with her methods or not, she had a hand in gaining women’s suffrage in Britain.
I don’t believe in Women’s Rights per say. I believe everyone has rights and everyone should be treated fairly and with equal respect and, because of this, the suffragettes were among my first heroes when I was a kid.
We met a sweet old lady on the way in to the churchyard. She was obviously an ardent fan. She told us how packed the church had been for the memorial service and how she’d had to stand outside while the service was relayed on an amplifier to the gathered throng outside.
“Even the vicar conducting the service was a woman,” she announced proudly before turning to Man and proclaiming “It was a bad day for your lot”.
That made me laugh.
For me women’s rights, gay rights, religious rights, whatever rights are never about the them and us, it’s always just about equality and unity. Others feel differently, I know.
There was a fading card stuck to the side of Emily Wilding Davison’s grave. It said simply “Emily, thank you.”