HUNDREDS of Morpeth residents paid their respects as a series of events to mark the centenary of Emily Wilding Davison’s death got under way.
Organisers of the Emily Inspires programme felt it was appropriate to start it with the annual service on International Women’s Day last Friday.
As per tradition, it was held in St Mary’s Church and those who attended then braved the cold outside to lay flowers at the grave of the world-famous Suffragette.
Her body was laid to rest in the church graveyard after she was brought back to the county following her death, when she was knocked down and fatally injured by King George V’s horse Anmer in the 1913 Epsom Derby.
Lauren Caisley, Emily’s first cousin three times removed, gave an address during the service. The 19-year-old former King Edward VI School student is doing a teaching degree at Northumbria University.
She said: “I was pleased to see the church full of people and I was proud to speak about Emily’s courageous efforts. She fought for what she believed in, which I think is very important in today’s society as well.
“I hope that people will get involved with the events and activities over the next few months, even if it’s just to show their support when the funeral procession re-enactment takes place.”
Although her birthplace was Greenwich, in London, Emily’s family had deep roots in Morpeth and she and her mother went back to live in nearby Longhorsley following the death of her father. She regularly returned between bouts of Suffragette action.
Demonstrations and active protests led to prison sentences, hunger strikes and force-feeding. Her increasingly militant actions drew attention to her, but there was no change of policy within the Government.
The Werca’s Folk women’s choir sang a song which was specially written for the centenary – Emily Inspires Us Yet – during the service and the Suffragette anthem March of the Women by her grave.
Director Sandra Kerr said: “We’re about representing, in song, women’s expectations and hopes. We have performed at many of these services and I believe this year’s was the best one yet.”
Other events that will happen later in 2013 include concerts, a new play by Kate Willoughby, a “Bikes and Bonnets” cycle ride from Longhorsley to Morpeth, an exhibition in the town centre and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Epsom Racecourse.
There will also be special speakers during the Centennial Weekend in June: Baroness Helena Kennedy and Eleanor Mills, associate editor of the Sunday Times.
One of the leading members of the Emily Wilding Davison Working Group, Penni Blythe-Jones, said: “The service was very well attended and I’m excited about the upcoming programme of events, which is getting national and international attention.”
The Morpeth and District Soroptimists always come along to the service and president-elect Jean Coates said members are campaigning for gender equality across the world, like Emily did, as many women are still being mistreated in a number of countries.
Coun Jim Smith, chairman of Northumberland County Council, laid a wreath of flowers at Emily’s memorial.
He said: “This was an inspiring memorial service to mark International Women’s Day and commemorate the life of Emily Wilding Davison.”