Emily Wilding Davison, the well-known suffragette, was born in Greenwich, London on 11th October 1872, the daughter of Charles, a merchant from Northumberland, and Margaret.
In 1891 she won a bursary to Royal Holloway College but had to drop out when her father died. She worked as a governess to earn some money and then in 1895 went to St Hughes College, Oxford where she achieved First Class marks but, as a woman, was not allowed to graduate. She then taught at schools in Edgbaston and Worthing before attending the University of London where in 1898 she was finally able to graduate with a First Class degree in English.
Emily became a Governess with a family in Berkshire before moving to Spratton Grange, Spratton in about 1900 to teach Mary and Anne Moorhouse, the sisters of William Rhodes-Moorhouse. It is unclear how many years she taught the girls but was certainly living there on the night of the 1901 Census. A photograph in Mary and Anne’s album has the caption “Poor dear EWD was our governess about 1900 till I went to Queen’s Gate. She was a brilliant teacher, a good woman, but rather unbalanced and strange.”
In 1906 Emily joined the Women’s Social and Political Union, founded by Emmeline Pankhurst, and quickly became involved in demonstrations in support of women’s suffrage. By 1908 she had given up teaching and was completely dedicated to the movement. In 1909 she received the first of nine prison sentences. She went on many hunger strikes and was force fed on a number of occasions.
Finally, on 4th June 1913, she ran on to the racetrack at the Epsom Derby in the path of King George V’s horse. She was badly injured and died in hospital on 8th June 2013. Modern historians generally agree that she was aiming to draw attention to the Suffragettes’ cause rather than wanting to commit suicide.