Memorial speakers underline need to build on legacy

Emily Inspires! day in Morpeth.'Ref:JCMH 150613emily45
Emily Inspires! day in Morpeth.'Ref:JCMH 150613emily45

EMILY Davison’s fight for equality must be taken forward into the future, a memorial service heard.

The Emily Inspires programme culminated in a service at St Mary’s Church.

The church was full as visitors joined family members and dignitaries in paying their respects to Emily, with more listening to the service outside as it was relayed on loud speakers.

There were hymns and readings of significance to Emily’s life, as well as singing by Werca’s Folk and soloist Rebecca Megwa.

And after paying tribute to the passionate campaigner, speakers told of the importance of building on her legacy.

Emily Inspires Programme Director Penni Blythe-Jones welcomed guests with a Parliamentary cross-party statement on the centenary of Emily Davison’s death.

It read: “As we celebrate the achievements of the Suffragettes in campaigning for the women’s vote, we are mindful of the work still to do to achieve gender equality – here in the House of Commons, in government and in society. We can celebrate so much that has been achieved for women’s equality in the century since Emily Wilding Davison’s death, but there remains much to do.”

Ms Blythe-Jones said the motto of the Emily Inspires programme – Her Past, Our Present, Your Future – shows the importance of honouring Emily, but also continuing the quest for equality.

And she said it was fitting that the events ended with a church service to recognise Emily’s spirituality.

The Rev Maureen Chester highlighted the need for equality within the Church of England and spoke of the WATCH campaign for women bishops.

She said: “In 1975 the General Synod of the Church of England decided that there are no fundamental objections to the ordination of women in the priesthood. More than 11 years later in 1987 the first women were ordained as deacons, but not as priests until 1994.

“One of the first women to be ordained priest came to Morpeth to serve as curate. The ministry teams have had male and female priests ever since.

“This year the House of Bishops put forward a proposal for new legislation and it is important that the Church of England should now become fully inclusive to all, without reference to gender.

“The WATCH campaign seeks to ensure that all men and women who are called to become clergy might answer that call.

“The next step is to ensure that women can serve equally as bishops in the Church of England.

“Were Emily here today, I feel sure she would be in support of this campaign. I hope she would.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird spoke in place of human rights campaigner Helena Kennedy QC, who was unable to attend due to a recent bereavement.

She dismissed suggestions that Emily intended to kill herself at the Derby and said that ultimately her campaigning was a triumph.

However, she too spoke of the need to continue the fight for equality across the globe.

“I think that the torch has passed from her to us. We have made progress, but we have a long way to go,” she said.

Sunday Times Associate Editor Eleanor Mills said that for too long too little discussion has taken place about Emily and her actions and treatment by the authorities.

She said that women have come a long way, but they must grasp the opportunities available and everyone must play a part in ensuring women have access to them.

Morpeth Mayor Joan Tebbutt read out witty Suffragette poetry by Alice Duer Miller.

And Geoffrey Davison, the great, great nephew of Emily Davison, spoke of his pride in taking part in the service and the progress that has been made in telling the Suffragette’s true story.

He thanked local historian and genealogist Maureen Howes for contributing to that and bringing family members together, and he spoke of the efforts of the Emily Davison working group in providing fitting tributes to the campaigner.

He added: “Emily Wilding Davison belongs no longer just to the Davison family, she belongs to the people of Morpeth and the people of Longhorsley.

“She is an integral part of your history and your heritage and the history of Northumberland.”

After the service there was a procession to Emily’s grave where family floral tributes were laid and women were given white carnations to put down.

A new plaque marking the centenary of Emily’s funeral was unveiled.

Mr Davison said: “Look around at everyone here and appreciate that this is a moment in history. There was a moment in history 100 years ago and we are all now a significant part of that.”