Emily Davison was the most militant of all the Militant Suffragettes. Before the Derby, when in prison in Strangeways, she was force-fed 12 times in 4 days. Not surprisingly her cell was in quite a state after this so she was moved to another cell whilst they cleaned her one. They moved her bed with her, but the new cell already had it a bed. She spotted that if you laid the two beds end to end they were almost the exact width of the cell, from the door (which opened inwards) to the opposite wall. So she wedged the two beds together and barricaded herself in. When the feeding trolley, wardresses and doctor arrived to force feed her yet again, they couldn’t get in. She was threatened of course, but she was already starving and being tortured, so any threats were idle. So the prison authorities fed a hose-pipe through the cell window and pumped freezing cold water on to her. When the water was six inches deep in her cell, Emily started to not be able to breath properly, so the authorities forced the door open. The prison officers had to catch the very heavy cell door in mid air as it started to fall, otherwise it may have landed on Emily and crushed her. There was indignation in the press and Emily was released.
This was not the only protest that Emily made in prison. On one occasion she threw herself off a prison landing, shouting “No Surrender!” as she did it. Fortunately she was caught by the netting that is placed in all prisons to stop suicide attempts. On another occasion she climbed to the top of some steps and threw herself off the top, landing heavily many feet below, giving herself severe injuries.
One of her prison terms was caused by Emily inventing Suffragette pillar box sabotage. She was the first to set light to rags and stuff them down post boxes to incinerate the contents. Such action became official Suffragette militancy and was coordinated by well known WSPU member May Billinghurst.
In the last few years of her life, Emily worked as an independent Suffragette, having been sacked from her paid role in the WSPU by her commander-in-chief Christobel Pankhurst, for being TOO militant! The reason being that Emily was sitting in the Lyons Corner House cafe in the Strand, opposite Charing Cross Station, when she heard that the Conciliation Bill , which had been passed by a huge majority and would have given propertied women the vote, had been blocked by Prime Minister Asquith. Emily went to the first building site she could find, picked up a brick, and threw it through the window of the first government building she came across in Whitehall. But this was during a truce with the government whilst the Conciliation Bill was being considered, so Emily had disobeyed Christobel’s orders. And you did NOT disagree with Christobel!
But the WSPU organised a huge funeral procession for Emily after the tragic incident at Tattenham Corner during the 1913 Epsom Derby. But one woman wasn’t there. Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst. She left her house to go to the funeral and was immediately arrested under the terms of the ‘Cat & Mouse’ Act. This stated that once a Hunger-Striking Suffragette Prisoner was released from prison on health grounds, as soon as she attempted to leave her house, she was deemed fit enough to return to prison to continue her jail sentence. Mrs Pankhurst was so weak from her many prison ordeals that she was only in prison one day before being re-released again. She had only been arrested and stopped from going to the funeral out of spite by the government.