Weird History

The Shocking Moment A Women's Rights Activist Sacrificed Her Life By Horse Stomping

On June 4, 1913, Emily Davison stepped onto the track at Epsom Downs Racecourse as a horse came barreling around the bend. The horse and jockey crashed into Davison, and all three tumbled to the ground. It was a shocking moment in one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. In the aftermath of the crash, it became clear that Emily Davison's act had been purposeful: she had done it to bring attention to the issue of women’s suffrage. Her actions would pave the way for other famous women's rights activists for years to come. 

Born in 1872 to a middle-class British family, Emily Davison was a St. Hugh’s College graduate and a militant member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The WSPU had been founded in 1903 for the sole purpose of getting British women the right to vote. Though more and more British men of different classes were gaining the vote in the 19th century, British women were still denied this civic right. So, "suffragettes," or militant members in women's rights organizations, like Emily Davison took it upon themselves to protest the disenfranchisement of women in increasingly public and dramatic ways.

Emily Davison's act at the Epsom Derby was actually caught on film, and the Emily Davison video is a chilling glimpse of a tragic event. The picture of her bold stand is one of the most powerful photos of women, and her death was easily one of the most dramatic moments in the campaign for women’s suffrage. Davison ultimately died of her injuries, but the British suffrage movement would never be the same.