I took a day out yesterday to take part in not-work things. It recharged me and left me glad of the friends I have.
First thing, I spent time in the sunshine up at Epsom Downs racecourse as part of a group of friends who wanted to mark the centenary of the Derby Day that saw Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison rush out into the path of the King's horse, Anmer, bringing down horse and jockey, who escaped unscathed. Emily was not so fortunate, sustaining injuries that led to her death four days later. Emily was the only Suffragette to die during the fight to secure the vote for women, having survived imprisonment, an incredible 49 tortuous force feedings and multiple injuries including a fractured skull during previous protests.
The recent documentary hosted by Clare Balding, Secrets of a Suffragette, threw new light on Emily's actions on that day. Far from being a mad attempt to take her own life or that of the horse and jockey in the name of her cause, it seems her mad attempt was in trying to secure a scarf in the clours of the Women's Social and Political Union to the bridle of the horse to see it wearing Suffragette colours as it crossed the finishing line. Whether she had no idea of the damage a running horse can do to a human body in its way or merely misjudged matters, we may never know.
We met at Tattenham Corner, at the point where Emily stepped onto the track and where there is a memorial plaque placed for her. We laid flowers in the WSPU colours of green, white and violet, sometimes said to represent 'Give Women the Vote', more often hope, purity and dignity. My friend Bonnie's son placed them in her memory, and with our thanks.
We also remembered Anmer's jockey, Herbert Jones, who said he never forgot "that poor woman's face" as his ride collided with her. A brave and blameless man, after the 1913 Derby Jones lived his life speaking out for women's rights and sadly took his own life in 1951. We marked his own place in history with flowers in red and royal blue, the colours of his jockey's silks on that day, laid down perfectly by Bonnie's two-year-old daughter.
Apart from gratitude for those that fought for equality, what we also marked yesterday was the memory of a time before women like me could have an interest in politics, let alone a say. Our gathering of women (and one marvellous man) was small, but intense. At one point three female Council candidates and a sitting female Councillor gathered round her memorial plaque and wondered at how far we have come; whilst remembering that there are millions around the word who are still fighting for the right to vote. As Dr Helen Pankhurst, descendant of the formidable Emmeline says: the work of the Suffragettes is not yet finished.
As we stood on that spot, one lady who had stepped out of her wheelchair to stand with us said "Memories are very important. You have to make memories and hold them in your heart, or you make mistakes."
If one comment summed up the occasion, this was it. Without holding close the memories of when times were harder, we cannot hope to truly appreciate what we achieve. Without keeping those memories in mind, we are doomed to return to the same damaging scenarios. Without them we lose what nourishes us, what makes us happy and what we hold onto of one another.
Hold your memories in your hearts and never forget what really matters to you.