The Iffley History Society’s programme of talks on the theme of Prominent Women resumes at 7.30pm in the Church Hall on Tuesday 16th February.
We look forward to welcoming Dr Katherine Bradley to tell us about Votes for women in Oxfordshire. Dr Bradley’s doctoral thesis on this topic is entitled “Faith, perseverance and patience” – a reminder that the anti-suffrage movement had centuries of prejudice and privilege from which to draw strength.
The locations for the English suffrage movement which come easily to my mind are Manchester, London, … and of course the Epsom racecourse. Simon Wenham’s talk to the Society in 2014 on Salter’s Steamers first made me realize how silly this view was: of course such a campaign would have its local history. Simon told us about a suffragette plan in 1912 to set fire to the home of the local MP, Nuneham House. The quickest route there and back was by river, through Iffley lock…
Emily Davison – she of the Derby race incident – had been an undergraduate at St Hugh’s Hall. She finished with a First Class honours performance in Oxford’s examinations for women in 1893. But as a woman she had been unable even to matriculate (become a member of the University) officially – let alone receive an Oxford degree. This might have added iron to her soul… But it may be that her personal commitment to active involvement in the raising of women’s political rights did not begin in earnest till she had left – to earn a living teaching, and a degree as an external student of London University.
Emily had begun her own incendiary campaign in 1911- setting fire to London post boxes: “”I took out of my pocket a packet of the same size as an ordinary letter. It was of grease proof paper tied with cotton. Inside was coarse linen well soaked in kerosene … I calmly applied a match … held it for a second … I let the packet, now well alight go down the receptacle, & threw the matches in afterwards. I then quietly walked on down Fleet Street & turned into the first Lyons I came to to get lunch.” She got six months in prison (Holloway) -and endured 8 days of force feeding. Not the only time she was to suffer for the cause.
In 1913 – whether intentionally or not – she would lose her life for the cause.
“To lay down life for friends, that is glorious, selfless, inspiring! But to re-enact the tragedy of Calvary for generations yet unborn, that is the last and consummate sacrifice of the militant! She will not hesitate “even unto this last”. ” The final paragraph of an essay found among Emily’s papers after her death.