Three days ago marked 100 years since the day Emily Wilding Davison, carrying out a suffragist political protest, was trampled by racehorses at the Epsom Derby and later died. I always heard it told as “threw herself under the King’s horse”, but informed discussion around the incident suggests that I shouldn’t make such a simple, firm statement about what happened. What we must not forget is how brutal the response was to all forms of activism by women demanding something as basic as the vote. Beatings, force feeding hunger strikers, every kind of public ridicule and humiliation. Never let anyone imply that all women needed to do was ask for their rights and reasonable people would extend them. The men with the power to enact change fought against women’s rights every inch of the way. Desperate measures like Emily’s were born of exactly that: desperation. But in the end their refusal to accept anything but justice made that change happen.
Today, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon still legislate for differing voting rights for men and women.
Read Kira Cochrane’s “Nine Inspiring Lessons the Suffragettes can Teach Feminists Today”, for some great history and thoughts about what it means for us.