Thursday 10th April 2014

I open my email this morning and there’s a list from Melanie of people to contact and places to visit.

First I decide to email Irene Cockroft, a leading suffrage historian, whose book New Dawn Women I had read and found inspirational.

Next, Kate Willoughby, director and actress who created the play To Freedom’s Cause based on Emily Davison, and Sarah Dewing, artist and trustee of the Emily Davison Memorial for Epsom.  All these women have been really helpful with my commission for this work.  I have their emails and they know me, so it seems a good place to start. Straight away I get replies. Irene is in Australia but will contact me on her return next week.  Kate makes an arrangement to meet in a fortnight.

Photo of Mary Branson's Emily Davison Memorial proposal

Emily Davison Memorial proposal, Epsom (Image: Mary Branson)

Meanwhile, Melanie sends an email to Elizabeth Crawford, a suffrage historian, who she suggests is my first port of call.

I use my time over Easter to read as much as possible about women’s suffrage. My knowledge to this point is little more than: Emily Davison fell in front of the King’s horse, women chained themselves to railings and went on hunger strike, and then we got the vote!  I ask around my group of friends if they have any more knowledge than me. I get the same answer over and over again. Amazing!

One image that I come across on the web, An Incident in Connection with the Presentation of the First Women’s Suffrage Petition to Parliament in 1866 by Bertha Newcombe, captured my imagination.

This picture shows Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson showing John Stuart Mill, MP for Westminster, the petition for women’s suffrage, which they had hidden away under the stall of an apple-seller in Westminster Hall. After accepting the petition, Mill agreed to campaign for women’s suffrage in the House of Commons.

I’d really like to see this if I get the chance.

Come back on Thursday 28 July 2016, when Mary visits the Parliamentary Archives for the first time…