Emily Davison, Deeds not Words

May 28, 2020 8:37 am Published by Emily Davison suffragette

Emily Davison was born in 1872 in Greenwich, London.
We plan to name our Greenwich development after this passionate and determined local suffragette.

Who Was Emily Davison?

Emily Davison attended Kensington High School, followed by Royal Holloway College where she studied literature. Unfortunately, in 1893, Emily’s father Charles, a retired merchant, died and her mother, Margaret, was unable to pay the college fees. Emily therefore took up work as a governess. She saved until she had enough to sit her finals at St Hugh’s college, Oxford. Here she enrolled for just one term and achieved first class honours in English¹. However, degrees from Oxford were closed to women until 1920, so Emily was unable to graduate. Following this, Davison continued to work as a governess, tutor and teacher.


Greenwich Royal Naval College

In 1906 Emily joined the WSPU (Womens Social and Political Union), led by Emmeline Pankhurst. Their motto was ‘Deeds not Words’, which meant both:

  1. imploring the government and Prime Minister Asquith to do as they had promised (to extend the vote to women)
  2. taking militant action in protest if they did not



Votes for Women

At 37 years old, Davison left her job to campaign full time for equal voting rights.

She was arrested for various acts of protest, including causing a public disturbance, burning post boxes, obstruction and stone throwing.

In 1909, Emily was sent to Strangeways Prison for a month’s hard labour . She immediately began a hunger strike. This was a strategy employed by arrested Suffragettes which had initially led to early release, but later resulted in brutal force-feeding. In order to avoid this, Emily barricaded herself in her cell. In response, a jailer flooded it, attempting to drown Davison. Luckily she was freed and successfully sued the wardens for this mistreatment.²


Emily Davison The Suffragette Angel

On 4 June 1913, Davison was tragically and fatally injured at The Epsom Derby.³ She strode onto the track and was trampled by the king’s horse. Many suggested that this was a reckless and selfish protest suicide. However, Emily had bought a return train ticket that day, suggesting that she did not intend to kill herself. In addition, digital ‘cleaning’ of the film footage from the Derby revealed that she appeared to be reaching up to attach a [suffragette] scarf to [the King’s horse]’s bridle.

Davison died 4 days later.

The Suffragette newspaper depicted Emily as an angel and wrote: “Davison has proved that there are in the twentieth century people who are willing to lay down their lives for an ideal.”

Five thousand women, wearing the Suffragette colours, along with hundreds of male supporters made up her funeral procession and 50,000 people lined the route.

Emily Davison’s Legacy

In conclusion, Davison’s determination and passionate support for equal voting rights inspired many. Her life and tragic death provide an example of the incredible impact one person can have.

In Britain, women were finally given the same voting rights as men in 1928, 15 years after Davison’s death.

The fight for equality is far from over today, with women earning an average 20% less than men and women making up just 27% of the Cabinet and House of Lords. Worldwide, women continue to have less access to education, but this is slowly changing and we can all keep up the campaign for equality.

“The true militant suffragette is an epitome of the determination of women to possess their own souls.” – Emily Davison

In honour of Emily Davison’s sacrifices in support of equality, we’ve decided to name our Greenwich development Davison Close.


Deeds not words

Emily Davison sources and further reading:

¹ Wikipedia
² BBC History
³ Encyclopaedia Britannica

Finally, here are some more resources about the Suffragette’s fight and supporting equal rights for all genders:

Suffragettes vs. Suffragists (Channel 4)
Suffragettes – stories from parliament
The 10 worst countries to be a woman
The United Nations on gender equality
Why all men should be feminists (according to a male feminist)

And take a look at our ultimate guide to the Greenwich area here.