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DAVISON, Emily Wilding (1872-1913)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 106 7EWD
Held at: Women's Library
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Full title: DAVISON, Emily Wilding (1872-1913)
Date(s): 1905-1989
Level of description: fonds
Extent: 2 boxes, 2 oversize boxes and artefacts
Name of creator(s): Davison | Emily Wilding | 1872-1913 | suffragette
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Emily Wilding Davison was born in Blackheath in 1872. She attended Kensington High School and then Holloway College. However, two years into her course her father died and she was forced to leave to become a governess. She was subsequently able to pay for a course a St Hugh's College at Oxford. She sat her final examinations in 1893 when she took a first-class degree. She was subsequently employed by the Church of England School for Girls in Edgbaston from 1895-6 before moving to Seabury School in West Worthing. She then move again to Berkshire where she again became a governess until 1906, the year in which she joined the Women's Social and Political Union.

She was employed by the Women's Social and Political Union as chief steward at the Hyde Park procession in June 1908 and was one of the nine arrested in March 1909 when a deputation marching from the Caxton Hall to the Houses of Parliament was prevented from seeing the Prime Minister. She was arrested a second time in July when after interrupting a meeting in Limehouse addressed by David Lloyd George. This time the sentence was doubled to two months and Davison went on hunger strike. She was released after five days, beginning the long series of arrests, imprisonments and releases after force-feeding that would make up much of the rest of her life. In September she was arrested with Dora Marsden for throwing balls labelled 'bomb' through the window of a meeting in Manchester, received a two month sentence and was released after two and a half days having gone on hunger strike. Unable to find work, she became a paid organiser of the WSPU from April 1910. She managed to enter and hide in the House of Commons three times between 1910 and 1911, and was the first to embark on a campaign of setting fire to pillar-boxes. During her imprisonment in Holloway in 1912, she threw herself over landing railings on two separate occasions, incurring injuries which would continue to afflict her. On the 4th June 1913, she tried to seize the bridle of Anmer, the King's horse running at the Derby. She received head injuries and never recovered consciousness, dying on the 8th June. Her funeral was preceded by a large funeral cortege that became one of the iconic events of the campaign for Women's Suffrage. The service took place at St George's Church, then the coffin was taken by train to the family grave in Morpeth in Northumberland. After her death, she became an almost mythic figure in popular culture and her memory was perpetuated both within the movement and beyond.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Emily Wilding Davison comprising personal papers (1909-1913), including employment papers (1913), personal correspondence (1909-1913), writings (1911-1913), papers related to membership of Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) (1912-1913) and to her death (1913-15); papers of Rose and Tom Lamartine Yates related to the Davison inquest; WSPU papers (1905-1914), and papers of other suffrage organisations (1910-1914); papers of the Suffragette Fellowship and the Women's Record Room (1936-1940); photographs (1908-1914), miscellaneous items including 'Justice Tea' teabags, revolving picture of 'elusive Christabel', newspapers and cuttings (1910-1988); posters and illustrations (1908-1914); papers related to the Cat and Mouse Act (1913); artefacts; additional papers (1980s).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The nature of the archive has created difficulties in compiling a catalogue. Many items were probably part of the Suffragette Fellowship Women's Record Room holdings but these cannot be identified precisely. Original order did not survive and material was sorted into classes and catalogued in 1988.

EWD/A Emily Wilding Davison - Personal Papers
EWD/B Rose Lamartine Yates - Papers
EWD/C Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU)
EWD/D Other Suffrage Societies
EWD/E Suffragette Fellowship / Women's Record Room
EWD/F Miscellaneous
EWD/G Newspapers
EWD/H Posters and illustrations
EWD/J Photographs
EWD/K Additional items from the Fawcett Library relating to EWD
EWD/L Additional deposited items
EWD/M Objects

Conditions governing access:

This collection is partially available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.
* Papers are available on microfilm only.
* Photographs are available for research.
* Some artefacts are currently UNAVAILABLE as they are awaiting conservation (from Jan 2006).

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:

Handlist. The Women's Library Catalogue.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The Emily Wilding Davison archive was deposited with the Fawcett Library by Mrs Ruth Yates, daughter-in-law of Rose Lamartine Yates, in two accessions in Dec 1985 and Jan 1986. Yates had contacted Dr and Mrs Pankhurst (then City of London Polytechnic Librarian) in Oct 1985 after reading an article about Sylvia Pankhurst (by Richard Pankhurst) which mentioned a missing portrait of Mary Gawthorpe. This was in Yates' possession together with the other papers in the collection.

Most of the material relating to Emily Wilding Davison came into the possession of the Lamartine Yates family through Thomas Lamartine Yates, a lawyer who represented EWD's family at the inquest into her death. The archive also includes some of Rose Lamartine Yates' own papers. RL Yates was a member of the Wimbledon branch of the WSPU and was involved in the founding of the Suffragette Fellowship in the 1930s. Through this connection, many of the items of suffragette memorabilia seem to have been brought together, originally for the Suffragette Fellowship's Women's Record Room. The Suffragette Fellowshiop initially held the material at the Minerva Club in Brunswick Square, London. Then, in May 1939, the Reading room was transferred to 6 Great Smith Street before closing in Sep due to the outbreak of the Second World War. The records were then distributed to places of safety. The papers seem to have remained with the family until their deposit in the Fawcett (subsequently The Women's) Library in 1985/06.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The Emily Wilding Davison collection was deposited with the Library in Dec 1985 and Jan 1986 by the family which had collected individual items together, originally for the Suffragette Fellowship's Record Room.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Women's Library Museum Collection contains photographs of Emily Wilding Davison's funeral. The Women's Library Archives contains additional press cuttings and ephemera related to Emily amongst the archives of several suffrage campaigners. These include a programme for memorial service of Emily Wilding Davison pasted into the Suffrage Scrapbook reference 10/45.

The National Archives holds papers in the Metropolitan Police Archive, MEPO/2/1551 and in the Prison Commission Archive, PCOM/8/174. Royal Holloway College, Egham, Surrey, contains a reference in the register of students, RHC AR/200/1, p. 14.

As at 2007 stills and film footage were made available on the web at A search for 'Emily Davison' resulted in contemporary footage of her being injured in 'The Derby 1912 and 1913' and her subsequent funeral.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
This document was generated by Javascript from an HTML form which structured the input according to the elements of ISAD(G) Version 2. Collection description by the Archives Hub, amended by Genesis Project Manager Jan 2002. Fawcett Library Catalogue 1988. Selected visual items given Fawcett Library descriptions by Catherine Marshall c.2000. Catalogue descriptions of objects (7EWD/M) by Lauren Burrows, The Women's Library volunteer, Dec 2007. Photographs repackaged by Gemma Waterston, The Women's Library volunteer, Jul 2008. Edited for AIM25 by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Dec 2008.

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