Education, College Women and Suffrage: International Perspectives

An Interdisciplinary Conference

Royal Holloway University, 13th-14th June 2018

As part of a Royal Holloway college wide series of events to commemorate suffrage at Royal Holloway in 2018, the Bedford Centre for the History of Women has teamed up with Winchester’s Centre for the History of Women’s Education and the Historical Association to organise this international, interdisciplinary conference exploring the links between education and suffrage campaigns and the roles of college women in them.  The conference is bringing together researchers, school teachers, archivists, curators and students to discuss how suffrage can be taught online, and in schools, HE and heritage institutions today through individual presentations, panels, workshops, posters and exhibitions. The Bedford Centre and Royal Holloway Archives will also launch their digital Royal Holloway and Bedford College Women and Suffrage resource, and commemorate the funeral of RHUL alumna Emily Wilding Davison.

There is still time to submit brief proposals for the Historical Association’s strand for Teachers and we particularly welcome submissions relating to African-American Women’s contribution to suffrage campaigns.

Keynote Speakers:

We are delighted to announce our keynote speakers who will illuminate a range of methods and national, international and transnational approaches to the theme of education and suffrage.

Elizabeth Crawford, renowned suffrage researcher, writer and book- dealer https://womanandhersphere.com/  will be talking about the links between education and suffrage in relation to the Garrett sisters and Emily Davies.

Eric Pumroy, Director of Special Collections & the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Centre for the History Of Women’s Education (Bryn Mawr, USA) and former Director Jennifer Redmond, (Maynooth University, Ireland) who will speak about education, suffrage and their work on the Seven Sisters’ College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education portal.

Kay Whitehead, Professor of Education, (Flinders University, Australia) who will give a presentation on transnational teacher education and suffrage in Australia and Britain.

Conference Committee:

Dr Nicola Phillips, Dr Alex Windscheffel and Alexandra Hughes-Johnson (Royal Holloway, University of London), Prof. Stephanie Spencer and Prof Joyce Goodman (University of Winchester)


The International Conference will also commemorate the funeral of  Emily Wilding Davison

Education, College Women and Suffrage: International Perspectives, takes place from the 13-14th June 2018 and will commemorate the funeral of Royal Holloway alumna, Emily Wilding Davison.  As the admission register below shows, Emily Wilding Davison joined Royal Holloway College on 14th January 1892 to study the Oxford Final Honours Course in English.

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Royal Holloway Student Register: Entry for Emily Wilding Davison, 1892. BC AR/201/1/1-8. [Copyright Royal Holloway Archives and Special Collections]

However, despite Emily receiving a two-year bursary of 30 pounds, she left Royal Holloway before the end of her course due to the death of her father and lack of funds to complete her course. She worked as a governess in order to fund the completion of her degree which she later finished at St Hugh’s Hall, Oxford.


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Emily Wilding Davison [Copyright The John Innes Society, Rose Lamartine-Yates Collection, 1875-1954]

Emily joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1906 and carried out itinerant work for the WSPU and administrative tasks in the WSPU’s Information Department.[1] Emily embraced a range of militant activities and initiated new forms of militancy such as pillar-box firing. She was imprisoned on numerous occasions during her time as a WSPU member, engaging in hunger-striking and experiencing the horrors of force feeding. She was so enraged by the torturous process of force feeding that, on two occasions, she threw herself over the landing railings in Holloway prison in order to draw attention to the inhumane process.

Emily Wilding Davison’s defining militant act, however, occurred on the 4th June 1913 when Emily attended the Epsom Derby. With the intent of stopping the King’s horse, Emily, armed with a WSPU flag around her body, walked under the railing near Tattenham corner and attempted to grab the reins of the King’s horse, Amner. The horse ran straight into Emily, knocking her to the floor. Emily was taken to Epsom Cottage Hospital after the incident, where she died just four days later from her injuries.[2]

Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral took place on Saturday 14th June 1913. Emily’s college friend and fellow Royal Holloway alumnae, Rose Lamartine Yates (pictured in this image below having tea with her college friends) was the first guard of honour to Emily Wilding Davison’s coffin (the funeral procession can be seen in the second image).


Rose Lamartine Yates (bottom left) with friends in her study at Royal Holloway c. 1896/97. RHC PH/271/3  [Copyright Royal Holloway Archives]


Photograph of the Funeral Procession in Hart Street, as it approached St George’s Church Bloomsbury. Thanks to Elizabeth Crawford for permission to use this image. [Copyright Elizabeth Crawford]


In a tribute to Emily, published in The Suffragette, Rose wrote:

‘As I stood with Mary Leigh by the bedside of our dying comrade and my old college friend, it seemed as though there was nothing which was hers left to give that she had not freely given to the women’s movement…She had felt the call, she knew that suffering and outraged womanhood looked to her, as indeed to all of us, to do her utmost to release her from bondage. No penalty, no pain, not loss of life itself could hold her back from responding to that call…She had given her life for us and for all humanity- counting but not fearing the cost.’ [3]


[1] Krista Cowman, Women of the Right Spirit, Paid Organisers of the Women’s Social and Political Union, 1904-1918. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 218.

[2] For a more detailed description of Emily Wilding Davison’s life and career please see; Liz Stanley and Ann Morley, The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison. (London: Women’s Press, 1988). June Purvis, “Remembering Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913).” Women’s History Review, 22:3 (2013): 353-362. Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement, A Reference Guide, 1866-1928. (London: Routledge, 2001), 159.

[3] Rose Lamartine-Yates, “Emily Wilding Davison,” The Suffragette, London, England, June 13, 1913. From The British Library. Microfilm.


Image of Suffrage Parade (© Trustees for Wellesley College). Students march for suffrage in Philadelphia (1915),  College Women Open Access Portal: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education