June 4th 1913: Suffragette dies at Epsom Derby
On this day in 1913, suffragette Emily Wilding Davison ran out in front of King George V’s horse Anmer at the Epsom Derby. She was trampled by the horse and died a few days later. Davison had spent years violently campaigning for women’s rights and female suffrage, being subjected to force feeding whilst on a hunger strike in prison. At the Derby, she appears to have been attempting to attach a suffragette flag to the King’s horse. Some believed she had been aiming to commit suicide and become a martyr, but the fact she had purchased a return rail ticket that day could suggest otherwise. Her motivations are still unclear today. However, her injuries from the incident led to her death on 8th June. Herbert Jones, the jockey on the horse was “haunted by that woman’s face” for many years and committed suicide in 1951.
“Deeds not words”
- Suffragette slogan on her gravestone
April 5th 1887: Helen Keller makes her ‘miracle’ breakthrough
On this day in 1887 the deaf-blind Helen Keller aged 7 recognised the word ‘water’. Keller was left deaf and blind from an illness when she was 19 months old. Her parents sought someone to educate her, going to notable figures like Alexander Graham Bell, and eventually settling with the young Anne Sullivan (‘The Miracle Worker’) in 1887. Sullivan taught Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, but at first Helen could not understand that every object had a name. Her breakthrough on April 5th was when she realised that Sullivan spelling ‘w-a-t-e-r’ into her hand and the sensation of running water on her other hand symbolised ‘water’. From then on Helen was a fast learner, leaning 30 new words that day and going on to learn to write and speak so, by aged 16, she could attend school. Keller became the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and went on to campaign for leftist causes, female suffrage and pacifism. She campaigned around the world and was highly respected and honoured as a symbol of hope and courage.
She later wrote of her ‘miracle’ of April 5th:
“Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me…That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away”