A group of Epsom residents are leading a campaign to install a memorial to the suffragette and former Royal Holloway student Emily Wilding Davison, who died after running out in front of the King’s horse during the 1913 Epsom Derby.
Emily is arguably one of the most famous suffragettes after Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters because of her actions that day. The incident was captured on the newly invented technology of the time, the moving image, and viewed by millions nationally and internationally. Emily became a controversial figure and there was much debate about her intentions, which were interpreted by many at the time as suicidal. These persisted until recently, when new evidence came to light suggesting she was attempting to attach a suffragette banner to the horse’s bridle as it passed the Royal Box, in order to highlight the campaign for votes for women to the King.
However, Emily was so much more than what happened that fateful day. Born in Blackheath, London on 11 October 1872, but raised in Morpeth, Northumberland, Emily was intelligent and academically minded. She studied at both Royal Holloway College and Oxford University where she completed two degrees, despite the fact that women were not allowed to graduate. She subsequently became a teacher and a governess in order to earn a living, as her father had died and left her and her mother in financial hardship. She also had many other talents and interests, which included swimming, cycling, singing and writing.
During her campaign to secure women the vote, Emily was imprisoned a number of times. She went on hunger strike seven times and was subjected to force feeding no less than 49 times. Emily is also well known for boldly hiding in a broom cupboard overnight in the Houses of Parliament during the census, thus claiming her address as ‘Houses of Parliament’. There is now a plaque to commemorate this event on the cupboard door.
Residents in Epsom also want to commemorate Emily in the town where she lost her life on that fateful day, and so the Emily Davison Memorial Project has been formed with the aim of installing a life-size bronze statue of Emily sitting on a contemporary granite bench in the redeveloped Market Place in Epsom town centre.
The artist commissioned to make the statue is Surrey-based sculptor Christine Charlesworth, an elected member of the Society of Women Artists and the Royal Society of Sculptors. Christine has created many sculptures for individuals, local authorities and businesses and won a gold medal at the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show. Christine was an official artist with BT leading up to and including the 2012 Olympics with a selection of sports sculptures, and she created an action portrait of Paralympic basketball player Ade Adepitan for Jubilee Square, Woking.
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council and Surrey County Council are both behind the project, along with Emily’s family. All permissions have been granted and the fundraising campaign is in full swing; the Committee are almost halfway towards their £50,000 target. If you would like to donate to this important project to ensure Emily and all she did to secure women the vote is properly commemorated, please donate via the website. Donations of any size are welcome. There are also corporate sponsorship opportunities available, with companies or individuals donating £5,000 having their name engraved on the statue.
Sarah Dewing, Chair of the EDMP says. “It is time that Emily Wilding Davison is properly recognised for the part she played in bringing about the Governments’ decision to give some women the right to vote. It is due to her sacrifice and that of many others that women today have equal rights in law and opportunities to fulfil their potential that Emily’s generation could only dream of”.
To find out more, please visit www.emilydavisonproject.org, or the Emily Davison Memorial Project Facebook or Twitter page (@Emily Memorial). You can contact the Committee at email@example.com