To Freedom’s Cause

To Freedoms Cause

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A Brief Overview

 Ordinary women. Brave women. Extraordinary women.

TO FREEDOM’S CAUSE is the story of one woman, Emily Wilding Davison, and the suffragettes who campaigned alongside her, against all the odds – for equality and the right to vote.

What prompted me to first write the play was the last letter Margaret Davison wrote to her daughter, the day after her Epsom Derby protest. It was heartfelt, urgent and full of love:

“I know you have given up your whole heart and soul to [the Cause] and it has done so little in return for you.”

Margaret Davison, 5th June 1913.

TO FREEDOM’S CAUSE has always been a very personal piece. A performance of the play in the House of Commons in 2014, directed by Brian Astbury, was the catalyst for #Emilymatters (a cross-party initiative that seeks to build on Emily Davison’s phenomenal legacy and create a living legacy, by encouraging more young women to Step Up, Vote and Lead).


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House of Commons performance of To Freedom’s Cause, 2014: Emily Davison (Kate Willoughby), Margaret Davison (Kyra Williams). Photo credit: Brian Astbury.


The play was first performed at Bolton Castle, in the Yorkshire Dales castle in 2009. It has since been further developed and toured a variety of community venues and theatres, including the Georgian Theatre Royal.

In February 2014, the play followed in Emily’s footsteps with a special performance at the House of Commons, sponsored by Emily Thornberry MP

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TO FREEDOM’S CAUSE should be seen by every woman and teenage girl.
And by anyone who couldn’t be bothered to vote. Moving, stirring & passionate.
–  Jane Garvey, BBC Radio 4, Woman’s Hour presenter 

Emily Davison believed in equality and a fairer society, not just the right to vote. To reflect this and highlight her powerful legacy, I created #Emilymatters, as part of the House of Commons event, which has since grown into a a highly successful digital political campaign with over four thousand followers on Twitter.

A play not just about ‘history’, but about people, love, fear and commitment.
Female Arts, 4 Stars

As part of the Vote 100 anniversary, a unique immersive performance of the play at the former suffragette head quarters in London, in celebration of International Day of the Girl and Emily Davison’s birthday.

The #EmPawa event, was a collaboration between #Emilymatters and PAWA, a wonderful charity whose single purpose is to support underprivileged teenage girls’ education in Asia.

The play remains very much at the heart of #Emilymatters and is part of its future plans.

Kate Willoughby
Actor & Writer of Emily Davison play TO FREEDOM’S CAUSE


Further Information 

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Perhaps best known for her iconic 1913 Epsom Derby protest, as depicted in the film SUFFRAGETTE, where she stopped the King’s horse during the race, there is much more to Emily’s story, which this play explores.

TO FREEDOM’S CAUSE is the powerful story of people who came into contact with Emily, who changed her life and whose lives she changed.

Music and song are an important element in the play. The suffragettes were known for their singing. It helped to keep their spirits up during the long spells of imprisonment.

Over the years there has been a great deal of speculation about Emily’s motivation for stopping Anmer, the King’s horse:

Was it suicide? Was it naïve? Or was it just an accident?

TO FREEDOM’S CAUSE offers some insight into the exact truth of the situation.


A pioneer of the Militant Suffragette campaign, Emily’s final protest brought her into contact with the King’s jockey, Herbert Jones, a celebrated sportsman at the peak of his career.

Powerful legacy: the bravery of Emily Davison & her sister suffragettes in campaigning for the right to vote still resonates today.

This is very much a story of a brave band of sisters, mostly working class from the North of England as well as Scotland.

Key figures include Flora Drummond and Mary Leigh. Both Flora and Mary were leading figures in the suffragette movement. Whilst Flora ‘General’ Drummond’s contributions to the women’s suffrage movement are rightly remembered, Mary Leigh has all but faded from public conscious.

Mary instigated several daring militant campaigns and remained a loyal friend to Emily to the end of her days. She traveled to Morpeth every year on the anniversary of Emily’s death and placed a posy of forget-me-nots on her grave.


Suffragettes (L-R): Mary Leigh & Flora ‘General’ Drummond

So if you were moved by the film SUFFRAGETTE and want to find out more about Emily Davison and her brave band of sister suffragettes, please do sign up for updates about the play and its accompanying #Emilymatters campaign.

Here is the micro trailer from the 2014 special House of Commons performance of TO FREEDOM’S CAUSE:

‘To Freedom’s Cause’ by Kate Willoughby – historic performance in the House of Commons.
Cast: Kyra Williams, Fiona Geddes, Kate Willoughby, Eleanor Dennison, Darren Godbold.
Director: Brian Astbury & Musical Director: Rhona Finch.

See our House of Commons performance clips page for more about the event and to see other extracts from the play.

Voting is just the start. Team #Emilymatters is busy planning future creative projects, which include TO FREEDOM’S CAUSE that will encourage young people and women, not only to vote, but to step up and lead.


Celebrating Emily Davison’s birthday is an important for both the play and the campaign. With the UN’s International Day of the Girl now sharing Emily’s birthday, it’s a chance to celebrate Emily and her sister suffragettes legacy as well as all those who have and who continue to campaign for equality worldwide.

If you would like to receive updates about the play and campaign, you can sign up here.






2013 Tour Feedback & Reviews 

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The Arts Council England funded 2013 production toured a variety of venues, including Newcastle’s Lit & Phil Library, the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, HMP Downview and the Tristan Bates Theatre, Covent Garden. The play was incredibly well received. Here are some examples of audience feedback:

“Very moving, very authentic and – crucially – very inspiring!” 

 “Well done! Such a strong performance and heartfelt”

“Fascinating take on an extraordinary woman”


Strangeways Prison barricade: Emily Wilding Davison (Kate Willoughby)
Photo: Trevor Walker, 2013


Whilst published reviews included:

“To focus on such a historic moment and iconic figure held dear by many is a difficult task. This play manages to avoid the clichés and reverence which can so easily befall such productions. The play does not simply pay lip service to the suffragette movement, particularly Emily Wilding Davison and her extreme tactics. It examines multiple points of view and offers a meaningful interrogation of equality, democracy and what actions are necessary and permissible in the pursuit of what is deemed to be right and just.”
Simon Holton – A Younger Theatre

“Here, Davison was presented as a fun-loving, vivacious woman who was dedicated to improving the lot of her gender …  This was an intense, moving, and insightful play which deserves a wide audience.” 
Martin Polley, Sports Historian – Emily Wilding Davison & the Political Disruption of Sport

“A fantastic interpretation of the events leading up to Emily’s death, the play also offered a refreshing contrast to the accepted view of Emily as dour and serious, a martyr-in-waiting if you like … This play is important, I think, because rather than concentrate on whether it was a deliberate act of suicide or not, it focuses on the human story and on relationships, between Emily and her mother and with her friends and between Herbert, his wife and his past.”
Nicola Gauld – Fight for the Right: The Birmingham Suffragettes


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Tea & Sympathy: Mary Leigh (Hannah Emanuel) recuperates; Emily Davison (Kate Willoughby)
Photo: Trevor Walker, 2013


Arts Council England

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