A NORTHUMBERLAND writer has been following in the footsteps of Emily Wilding Davison to find out more about her brushes with the law.
Former teacher Andrew Griffin is penning a new e-book about the Longhorsley campaigner as part of the centennial commemorations of her death.
Mr Griffin, who lives in Shilbottle, is no stranger to Emily’s story as he previously wrote a play entitled Emily, One Big Tragedy, for the Northumberland Youth Theatre about her fatal accident at the Epsom Derby.
He said: “It was about 25 years ago when a I got hold of the original Suffragette newspaper, which came out after Emily’s death. It told that the city of London would be at a standstill for Emily’s funeral and detailed the arrangements to bring her to Morpeth.
“I decided to write a play about the events all those years ago and I have been interested in Emily ever since.”
It has been performed around the region since its debut 25 years ago and can be seen again in Tynemouth this summer.
But Mr Griffin is also hoping to spread Emily’s story in his new book after travelling the length and breadth of the country to read court transcripts about her protests.
His journey has taken in Strangeways prison, where the authorities filled Emily’s cell with water after she barricaded the door, and Aberdeen, where she attacked a church minister with a horsewhip after mistaking him for David Lloyd George.
“The search I’m on is to get as close as I can to where incidents happened in Emily’s life,” he said.
“I’ve been reading the transcripts of her court appearances because you can read the headlines, but you can get a more accurate representation of what happened if you look at the transcripts because it is a true record of what was said in the courtroom. When you see the direct quotes you can get a more accurate picture.”
Mr Griffin, who also lectures on local history, said there are many myths about the women’s rights campaigner, which he hopes to dispel.
“I want to get to the truth of Emily and try to get inside her head because there are so many myths surrounding the story,” he said.
“One story now is that Emily was part of a group of Suffragettes in the North East who got together and decided they would make a protest at the Derby and would draw straws to decide who would do it. Emily drew the short straw so the implication is that she was somehow coerced into taking part. I think nothing could be further from the truth.
“She did everything on her own and she was a very strong character. The Pankhursts, who were quite outrageous themselves, found Emily to be a loose cannon. I think that is part of the fascination with her.”
He added: “I’m firmly on Emily’s side and very much a supporter of the Suffragettes. I think the way they were treated was disgraceful and I can understand why Emily did what she did. She was a rational and intelligent woman who wanted to draw attention to the cause.
“I think she was an incredibly brave woman. She was at the Derby to make a protest, but she didn’t mean to die. The more I read about her, the more I like her and the more that people get to know about her the better.”
Mr Griffin hopes to publish his book, titled In Search of Emily: The Life and Death of a Northumbrian Suffragette, on Kindle next month.
Meanwhile, a book will be published later this month about the events of the 1913 Derby and its social context.
Emily stepped out onto the track and was struck by Anmer, the King’s horse. She sustained injuries from which she would die four days later.
The horse’s jockey, Herbert Jones, would famously be ‘haunted by that poor woman’s face’ and later took his own life.
Acclaimed racing writer Michael Tanner has scoured public and private sources – drawing on unpublished diaries and interviews with descendants of the principals – to try and debunk the myths and produce a definitive account of what led to the events of that day.
The Suffragette Derby, priced £20, will be available from May 26.