On Saturday 14 June 2013 the premiere of my Emily Wilding Davison TO FREEDOM’S CAUSE took place in Morpeth not far from where Emily is buried.
My next guest post is by women’s suffrage expert Elizabeth Crawford, who discovered a fascinating eyewitness account of Emily’s London funeral procession organised by the WSPU one hundred years ago.
I met Elizabeth earlier this year and she gave me some information about Norah Balls, a North East suffragette who I had previously thought was from a working class background. Thanks to Elizabeth’s invaluable advice I listened to an interview with Norah at the Women’s Library and realised my mistake! Norah was swiftly replaced by Bella Faulkner, who was in fact Connie Ellis’ “suffragette pal” and the right woman all along.
In June 1913 Kate Frye was working as an organizer for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage in Norfolk and, on hearing of Emily Wilding Davison’s death, promptly went shopping for a black hat. Having arranged for a black coat and skirt to be sent from her family home, on Saturday 14 June Kate travelled to London. She met up with John Collins, her fiancé, changed into mourning clothes and set out to follow Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral procession.
The following is part of her diary entry for the day. Presumably she identified the Bloomsbury ‘ladies in kimonos’ as prostitutes.
‘We got to Victoria – the procession had just started. We saw it splendidly at the start until we were driven away from our position and then couldn’t see for the crowds – and then we walked right down Buckingham Palace Road and joined in the procession at the end.
Photograph of Funeral Procession in Hart Street, as it approached St George’s Church, Bloomsbury
It was really most wonderful – the really organized part – groups of women in black with white lilies – in white and in purple – and lots of clergymen and special sort of pall bearers each side of the coffin. She gave her life publicly to make known to the public the demand of Votes for Women – it was only fitting she should be honoured publicly by the comrades. It must have been most imposing.
The crowds were thinner in Piccadilly but the windows were filled – but the people had all tramped north and later on the crowds were tremendous and oh, what a quality filled the windows and pavements in Bloomsbury. The ladies in the kimonos were a nightmare to me. The people who stood watching were mostly reverent and well behaved. We were with the rag tag and bobtail element but they were very earnest people.
Programme for Emily Wilding Davison’s London Funeral Procession
It was tiring. Sometimes we had long waits – sometimes the pace was tremendous. Most of the time we could hear a band playing the funeral march. Near Kings Cross the procession lost all semblance of a procession – one crowded process – everyone was moving. We lost our banner – we all got separated and our idea was to get away from the huge crowd of unwashed unhealthy creatures pressing us on all sides.
We went down the Tube way. But I didn’t feel like a Tube and went through to the other side – finding ourselves in Kings Cross station. Saying we wanted tea we went on the platform and there was the train – the special carriage for the coffin – and, finding a seat, sank down and we didn’t move until the train left. Lots of the processionists were in the train, which was taking the body to Northumberland for interment – and another huge procession tomorrow.
Emily Wilding Davison being tended by policemen as she lay injured on the ground at Tattenham Corner
To think she had had to give her life because men will not listen to the claims of reason and of justice.
Extract taken from CAMPAIGNING FOR THE VOTE – Ed by Elizabeth Crawford.
Available online from Francis Boutle Publishers.
Guest blog post by Elizabeth Crawford
Working in partnership with Northumberland County Council’s Emily Inspires! project, the Arts Council and the Greater Morpeth Development Trust, TO FREEDOM’S CAUSE had a very successful two and a half week tour in June 2013.
At the heart of the programme was the determination to create an ongoing Public platform for Emily and her campaigning for equality. With this in mind it is hoped that the play will be able to build on the success of June 2013 and continue to be a part of Emily’s important legacy.
For further information, click here.
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