North East's place in the day which changed history for women
One hundred years ago today, British women won the vote.
The Representation of the People Act was passed on February 6, 1918, giving women the vote provided they were aged over 30 and either they, or their husband, met a property qualification.
It followed a long, hard struggle by suffragettes up and down the country who would stop at almost nothing to get their voices heard.
They chained themselves to railings, went on hunger strike and were regularly arrested and jailed.
The North East has its own suffragette – Emily Wilding Davison.
Emily was born on October 11, 1872, at Blackheath, near Greenwich, after her father Charles’ business interests had taken the family south.
He and Emily’s mother Margaret, lived in Morpeth before Emily’s birth, at Winton House in Dacre Street,
After Charles’ death in 1893, the family returned to Northumberland and their new home was in Longhorsley.
Two years later Emily achieved First Class Honours in English Language and Literature from St Hugh’s College, Oxford, but was not given a degree because she was a woman, though she later obtained one from the University of London.
She found work as a governess and in 1906 she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union, founded by Emmeline Pankhurst to press for women’s rights.
Within two years she was a chief steward at meetings and by 1910 she was a paid organiser. She gained a reputation as a militant and was jailed on nine occasions and force-fed 49 times.
On the night of the 1911 census, she hid in a cupboard overnight in the chapel of the Palace of Westminster so that on the census form she could give her place of residence as the House of Commons.
In 1999, a plaque to commemorate the event was set in place by Tony Benn MP.
On Derby day in 1913, Emily stepped in front of the King’s horse Anmer, suffering fatal injuries. She died four days later.
Emily was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Morpeth, on June 15, 1913. Her coffin was brought by train to Morpeth, where thousands of people lined the streets.
She is remembered every year in the International Women’s Day celebration held at St Mary’s and at her graveside.
In 1928, at the funeral of Emmeline Pankhurst, Anmer’s jockey Herbert Jones laid a wreath ‘to do honour to the memory of Mrs Pankhurst and Miss Emily Davison’.
There is no doubt that Emily was a fearsome campaigner, but Morpeth genealogist Maureen Howes’ research about her also shows another side.
There are stories of musical soirees with friends, delivering food parcels to soup kitchens, having a strong sense of humour and being beloved of children.
She would rush off the train to buy sweets for a young relative, give money to the boy who swept the path at church and take babies out in their prams.
In Morpeth, moves are under way to put in place a memorial to Emily.
Northumberland County Council and Morpeth Town Council have been working closely on proposals for the monument, which will be erected in the formal garden of Carlisle Park, and those involved hope it will be in place by August.
In addition, information panels will be provided in the park to highlight the significant role she played in the suffragette movement and there will be a walking trail to help guide visitors to her grave and other points of interest in the local area.