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Suffragette’s sash set to feature in Commons display

PUBLISHED: 15:01 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:51 07 September 2010

A BLOOD-STAINED relic of the battle to win votes for women is being loaned by its Highgate-based owner to the House of Commons

Tan Parsons

A BLOOD-STAINED relic of the battle to win votes for women is being loaned by its Highgate-based owner to the House of Commons.

Political campaigner and film-maker Barbara Gorna, of Shepherd's Hill, owns the silk scarf, which was carried by militant suffragette Emily Wilding Davison when she was trampled to death by the King's horse at the Derby in 1913.

She bought the torn and bloody silk scarf, which is printed with a Votes for Women slogan, at an auction 10 years ago and is now loaning it for display at a show about the suffragettes.

She said: "I'm very pleased that the House of Commons Works of Art Committee has agreed to include the sash in their new display about the suffragettes. And I am happy to lend it.

"It seems very appropriate that Emily should finally be remembered in a place she struggled so hard get into when she was alive - a place that was closed to women until five years after her death."

At the time of her death the press branded Davison a lunatic who had committed suicide, but much has been made of the fact that she bought a return train ticket, suggesting she did not intend to take her own life.

Ms Gorna is currently making a film about the suffragette's life, and she is convinced the activist did not have suicide on her mind. "She was quite a churchy woman and quite a ballsy woman," she said.

"She had been force-fed 42 times and was involved in trying to blow up Yarmouth Pier. I'm sure she was simply trying to throw the sash at the King's horse, Anmer."

Early film footage shows the leading horses passing by and the suffragette dashing under the rail to head for Anmer. She died four days after fracturing her skull in the incident and her heroism in the fight for female emancipation gripped the nation. More than 100,000 people lined the streets for her funeral.

Davison took part in a number of stunts during her campaign, including throwing herself down an iron staircase at Holloway Prison and attacking a man she mistook for David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

One of her wiliest moves, however, was when she hid in a cupboard in the Palace of Westminster on the night of the 1911 census. On the census form she was able to legitimately give her place of residence that night as the House of Commons.

Ms Gorna added: "Emily's scarf is still an extremely iconic and important item. I bought the sash 10 years ago at auction. I became fascinated by her, and I couldn't resist bidding.

"Everyone, including leading politicians, is very moved by it, and wants to touch it. This woman's struggle to make it to the House of Commons moves them to tears."

The scarf is due to go on display in the autumn. For more details go to www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_ committees/acwa.cfm.

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk


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