The Ultimate Sacrifice

Photograph by: Arthur Barrett. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Photograph by: Arthur Barrett. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

This story was originally published in January 2015.

The annals of the history of human rights movements are filled with stories of courageousness and selfless acts of defiance. The image above tells the story of Emily Davison, whose tragic death paved the way for the suffrage movement, which saw women fighting for the right to legally vote. A resident of London, Emily Davison joined the movement in 1906, and she and her fellow protesters were employing several guerrilla tactics to get their voices heard. On 4 June 1913, Davison sneaked into the Epsom Derby, where King George V’s horse, Anmer, was also to be part of the race.

Press photographer Arthur Barrett had positioned himself near a sharp bend of the race track, where the speeding horses would naturally slow down and it would be easier for him to make photographs. As the race began, Anmer galloped down the track. Suddenly, Emily jumped on to the course in front of him, her hand reaching for his bridle. Instead of stopping, Anmer trampled over her, rendering her unconscious.

Davison couldn’t recover from the injuries, and she passed away four days later. The photo of the moment was published in various newspapers, which, in turn, intensified the movement. Her obituary in The Seattle Star newspaper read, “She is the first woman to suffer violent death for the cause of women suffrage, but who can say she will be the last?”

For years, it was believed that Davison’s death, an apparent suicide, was an act of martyrdom. However, recent studies of the image and videos from that day have shown that Emily wasn’t trying to kill herself for the cause… she was only trying to pin the suffrage flag on Anmer.

Tags: Arthur Barrett, Emily Davison, January 2015, story behind, women's suffrage