Suffragette Emily Davison, jockey Herbert Jones, and Anmer, a horse owned by the King of England, lie on the track at the Epsom racecourse in England on June 4, 1913.
Emily Wilding Davison was a militant fighter for women’s rights. Her tactics included breaking windows, throwing stones, setting fire to postboxes and, on three occasions, hiding overnight in the Palace of Westminster and going on hunger strikes seven times and was force-fed on forty-nine occasions. She was also a staunch socialist passionate Christian.
In March 1909 she was arrested for the first time for leading a march of 21 women to see the prime minister. The march ended in a fracas with police, in which Davison was locked up for "assaulting the police in the execution of their duty" and sent to prison for a month.
In July of 1909, Davison was arrested again for interrupting a public meeting from which women were barred, held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George; she was sentenced to two months for obstruction. She went on hunger strike and was released after five and a half days. Following the first episode of forced feeding while in prison, and to prevent a repeat of the experience, Davison barricaded herself in her cell using her bed and a stool and refused to allow the prison authorities to enter. They broke one of the window panes to the cell and turned a fire hose on her for 15 minutes while attempting to force the door open. By the time the door was opened, the cell was six inches deep in water. She was taken to the prison hospital where she was warmed by hot water bottles. She was force-fed shortly afterward and released after eight days. Davison sued the prison authorities for the using the hose and in January 1910, she was awarded 40 shillings in damages.
She was arrested again in September the same year for throwing stones to break windows at a political meeting. Sent to Strangeways prison for two months, she again went on a hunger strike and was released after two and a half days.
Davison was arrested again in early October 1909, while preparing to throw a stone at the cabinet minister Sir Walter Runciman and was charged with attempted assault but released.
In April 1910 Davison decided to gain entry to the floor of the House of Commons to ask h about the vote for women. She entered the Palace of Westminster with other members of the public and hid in the heating system overnight. On a trip from her hiding place to find water, she was arrested by a policeman, but not prosecuted. Shortly afterward she broke several windows in the Crown Office in parliament. She was arrested and sentenced to a month in prison, went on hunger strike again and was force-fed for eight days before being released.
In December 1911 she was arrested for arson on the postbox outside parliament and admitted to setting fire to two others. Sentenced to six months in Holloway Prison.
In June of 1912, she and other suffragette inmates barricaded themselves in their cells and went on hunger strike; the authorities broke down the cell doors and force-fed the strikers. Following the force-feeding, Davison decided to jump from one of the interior balconies of the prison. She cracked two vertebrae and badly injured her head.
In November 1912 Davison was arrested for a final time, for attacking a Baptist minister with a horsewhip; she had mistaken the man for Lloyd George. She was sentenced to ten days' imprisonment and released early following a four-day hunger strike
On the day in June 1913 that she was killed, Davison had run out on the track, perhaps to attach a women’s suffrage flag or banner to the kings horse and was literally run over. After colliding with Anmer, Davison collapsed unconscious on the track. The horse went over, but then rose, completing the race without a jockey. Davison died of her injuries a few days later; (fracture of the base of the skull) The horse and jockey were fine, although Jones did suffer a concussion.
The incident was captured on three newsreel cameras and showed that the 40-year-old Davison, was not, as assumed at the time it happened, attempting to pull down Anmer, the royal racehorse, but was reaching up to attach a suffragette scarf to its bridle. Davison’s position before she stepped out on to the track would have given her a clear view of the oncoming race, contrary to the argument that she ran out recklessly to kill herself.
At the inquest into Davison's death the coroner decided that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, Davison had not committed suicide. The coroner also decided that, although she had waited until she could see the horses, "from the evidence it was clear that the woman did not make for His Majesty's horse in particular".
A procession of 5,000 suffragettes and their supporters accompanied her coffin and 50,000 people lined the route through London as she was taken to be buried.