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In the Thick of the Fight

The Writing of Emily Wilding Davison, Militant Suffragette

Carolyn P. Collette

Publication Year: 2013

One of the most memorable images of the British women’s suffrage movement occurred on June 4, Derby Day, 1913. As the field of horses approached a turning at Epsom, militant suffragette Emily Wilding Davison ducked out from under the railing and ran onto the track, reaching for the bridle of the King’s horse, and was killed in the collision. While her death transformed her into a heroine, it all but erased her identity. To identify what impelled Davison to suffer multiple imprisonments, to experience the torture of force-feedings and the insults of hostile members of the crowds who came to hear her speak, Carolyn P. Collette explores a largely ignored source—the writing to which Davison dedicated so much time and effort during the years from 1908 to 1913. Davison’s writing is an implicit apologia for why she lived the life of a militant suffragette and where she continually revisits and restates the principles that guided her: that woman suffrage was necessary to improve the lives of men, women, and children; that the freedom and justice women sought was sanctioned by God and unjustly withheld by humans whose opposition constituted a tyranny that had to be opposed; and that the evolution of human progress demanded that women become fully equal citizens of their nation in every respect— politically, economically, and culturally. In the Thick of the Fight makes available for the first time the archive of published and unpublished writings of Emily Wilding Davison. Collette reorients both scholarly and public attention away from a single, defining event to the complexity of Davison’s contributions to modern feminist discourse, giving the reader a sense of the vibrancy and diversity of Davison’s suffrage writings.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xiv

I first encountered Emily Davison in Morpeth—the Northumbrian market town which was home to her family, and where my husband and I lived part of each year from 2004 to 2011. A medievalist with a particular interest in the literary presentation of medieval women and the Virgin Mary, I was busy one day trying to research the history of the Lady Chapel ruins in the woods ...

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Chapter 1. Seizing the Moment

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pp. 1-31

It is one of the most memorable images of the British women's suffrage movement: the day is June 4, 1913, Derby Day—the scene, the track at Epsom, at a turning known as Tattenham Corner. As the field of horses approaches and thunders by, a woman suddenly ducks out from under the railing and moves on to the track. A film of the moment shows her deliberately reaching ...

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Chapter 2. Reading and Writing for the Cause

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pp. 32-74

A eulogy printed on Friday, June 13, 1913, in Votes for Women, praised Emily Davison as a learned woman for whom "the columns of the Press, closed to many, opened themselves often almost unaccountably to her vivid and able pen." While she may have enjoyed greater access than others to the audience she sought, Davison was not unique in her belief in the power of words to ...

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Chapter 3. Visionary Women, Rebels for God’s Laws

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pp. 75-130

The militant suffrage movement built its argument in no small part on a foundation of past achievements by visionary women. In a series of essays for Votes for Women Emily Davison celebrated the combination of religious faith, vision, and commitment of nine women—foremothers who were able to help change the world. Like the women she wrote about, Davison, too, was ...

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Chapter 4. Paying the Price: Militancy, Prison, and Violence

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pp. 131-172

Knowing that she would shortly be heading to gaol (jail), Emily Davison made her will on October 20, 1909, the same day she was arrested in Radcliffe, near Manchester, for breaking windows in protest against the exclusion of women from a public meeting being held by Sir Walter Runciman.1 Not knowing what might happen to them in prison, many suffragettes wrote their wills ...

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Chapter 5. Answering Point for Point: The 1911 Letters

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pp. 173-207

Between March 1911 and early 1913, Emily Davison conducted an extensive letter-writing campaign to the editors of over fifty newspapers. Nearly 200 of these letters were pasted into a scrapbook now in the Women's Library Davison archive. While it likely does not comprise the entire corpus of Davison's letters, the scrapbook collection warrants close attention because it seems ...

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Afterword

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pp. 208-210

In a letter in the Adelaide, Australia, Mail on Saturday, August 16, 1913, two British suffragettes, a Miss Hodge and a Miss Newcombe, described Emily Davison's London funeral and praised her as a "dearly loved comrade" who "has passed on to the Throne of God the petition of the little outraged children, of the victims of white slavery, of the sweated working women, and ...

Appendix: Brief Biographical Index of Persons Emily Davison Refers to in Her Writing

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pp. 211-222

Further Reading

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pp. 223-230

Index

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pp. 231-236

Images

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pp. 237-244


E-ISBN-13: 9780472029556
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472119035

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013