This summer, Museums Northumberland presents ‘Northumberland Folk’, a series of four new exhibitions by illustrator Jonny Hannah. Jonny has produced a highly individual and colourful take on some of Northumberland’s most celebrated, famous – and sometimes infamous – sons and daughters.
None come as controversial as Emily Wilding Davison. Depending on your political views, you might consider her to be a freedom fighter or a terrorist, but she gave her life for what she believed in.
The artist was inspired by the Morpeth suffragette ; “Look into the eyes of Emily. There’s truth there, and hope, amongst the sadness & pain”.
Born into a Northumbrian family, Davison joined the Women’s Social and Political Union and became a militant fighter for the Suffragette cause. She was arrested on nine occasions, went on hunger strike seven times and was force-fed on forty-nine occasions. Famously, she spent the night of the 1911 census in a cupboard in the House of Commons – an occasion now marked by a plaque installed by Tony Benn MP.
Writing to Herbert Gladstone, the Home Secretary, Emily said that she and others were ‘ready to suffer, to die if need be, but we demand justice!’
Her statement was to come to pass on 8th June 1913, when she was killed under the hooves of King George V’s horse Anmer at the Derby. Waving the suffragette colours of white, purple and green, Davison had walked onto the racetrack attempting to pin them onto the King’s horse. She was trampled badly in the process, and mortally wounded.
A procession of 5,000 suffragettes and their supporters accompanied her coffin and 50,000 people lined the route through London; her coffin was then taken by train to the family plot in Morpeth, Northumberland. Five years later, the Representation of the People Act in 1918, afforded women the vote.
‘Fight On and God Will Give the Victory’ the quote used in Hannah’s work, were reputedly another formidable woman, namely, Joan of Arc’s, final words.
You can see Hannah’s ‘Homage to Emily Davison’ at the Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum until 31 October 2021.