Society Magazine

Epsom Derby - Women's Suffrage and More !

Posted on the 09 June 2021 by Sampathkumar Sampath

According to Election Commission of India, 62.6 million people were eligible for vote in TN Elections 2021- Sholinganallur assembly constituency had the highest number of eligible voters with 694,845 voters.  Female voters outnumbered men –Female being 31940880 while Men were 30995440 – women power !!  One needs to read History to understand its significance.

Suffragette is a 2015 British historical drama film about women's suffrage in the United Kingdom, directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan – it was the first feature film to be shot in the Houses of Parliament. The film was released in the United Kingdom by the French film company Pathé through its British distributor 20th Century Fox with a limited release in the United States.

Epsom Derby  -  Women's suffrage and more !

Jockey Adam Kirby won the Derby at Epsom on 16-1 shot Adayar just two days after being replaced on another leading contender by Frankie Dettori. Kirby guided the winner, for Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby, to victory by four and a half lengths from 50-1 chance Mojo Star, with Hurricane Lane in third.

The Derby Stakes, also known as the Epsom Derby or the Derby,   is a Group 1 flat horse race in England open to three-year-old colts and fillies. It is run at Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey on the first Saturday of June each year, over a distance of one mile, four furlongs and 6 yards (2,420 metres).  It was first run in 1780.  It is Britain's richest flat horse race, and the most prestigious of the five Classics. It is sometimes referred to as the "Blue Riband" of the turf. The race serves as the middle leg of the historically significant Triple Crown of British horse racing. The name "Derby" (deriving from the sponsorship of the Earl of Derby) has been borrowed many times, notably by the Kentucky Derby in the United States. The name "Epsom Derby" is often used in the United States, in order to differentiate The Derby from races such as the Kentucky Derby or Florida Derby.

Emily Wilding Davison (11 October 1872 – 8 June 1913) was an English suffragette who fought for votes for women in Britain in the early twentieth century. A member of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) and a militant fighter for her cause, she was arrested on nine occasions, went on hunger strike seven times and was force-fed on forty-nine occasions. She died after being hit by King George V's horse Anmer at the 1913 Derby when she walked onto the track during the race.  Emily Wilding Davison made headlines around the world when she ran out in front of King George V's horse at the Epsom Derby on June 8, 1913. The Suffragette, who died four days later, has been remembered ever since as the campaigner who lost her life while trying to secure the vote for women.

To mark the anniversary of the shocking incident, a statue of Davison was recently unveiled in the Surrey town where she met her fate after a campaign by a group of volunteers. The depiction, by sculptor Christine Charlesworth, shows Davison sitting on a bench holding a pamphlet. Next to her is a university mortarboard and pile of books.  The campaigner obtained a first-class honours degree from Oxford University but was unable to graduate due to the then rules banning women from doing so. Davison was part of the militant organisation the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), which was led by Emmeline Pankhurst.

Many have argued that the group's persistent high-profile campaigning, which included the use of civil disobedience, direct action and even the planting of bombs, did much to persuade politicians to give some women the vote in 1918.  The statue was produced after a long-running campaign by the Emily Davison Memorial Project (EDMP).  Ms Charlsworth, its sculptor  said: 'Emily was an extremely intelligent woman and gained two first class University degrees although, being a woman, she was not allowed to graduate.  'She felt that joining the suffragette movement gave a whole new meaning to her life and she was often the first to think up ideas to bring the movement to public attention.

Philippa Bilton, whose great-grandmother was the campaigner's first cousin, said it was a 'great honour' to part of the unveiling. 'It is due to her sacrifice and that of many others that women today have equal rights in law and opportunities to fulfill their potential that Emily's generation could only dream of'. Labour MP Emily Thornberry added: 'As someone who led the campaign for a monument to Emily Davison in Parliament, I am truly delighted to see this statue unveiled in Epsom today, capturing the vibrancy and passion of this extraordinary woman.

Epsom Derby  -  Women's suffrage and more !

Ms Charlsworth had been on the verge of retiring when she was commissioned to make the statue of Davison. The statue was first made in clay before being reproduced in bronze.   Ms Charlsworth then re-used the clay to create figures of both feminist composer Dame Ethel Smyth, who wrote the Suffragette anthem 'March of the Women', and Ms Thunberg. The artist added that she hopes to use the clay once again to create another sculpture of 'a woman who should be remembered.'  

The women's suffrage movement began in the mid-1800s as organised campaigns began to take place across the UK after Mary Smith delivered the first women's suffrage petition to parliament. In 1866, a women's suffrage committee was formed in London, which soon sparked other groups being set up in other areas, such as the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage. They were known as 'suffragists', as they believed in enfranchising women by peaceful means such as protests and petitions.  

The First World War was a turning point in the history of women's suffrage. The WSPU called an immediate halt to their suffrage activism in support of the British government's war effort. Emmeline Pankhurst believed that the danger posed during the First World War by what she called the 'German Peril' outweighed the need for women's suffrage.

The Government passed the Representation of the People Act 1918. The Act,which was passed on February 6, 1918, granted voting rights to certain women over the age of 30.  Ten years later, the age limit was lowered and the law changed to ensure women had the same rights as men.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
8th June 2021. 

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