New review: Clare Balding’s Secrets of a Suffragette

// 6 June 2013

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Having been reminded of women such as Selina Cooper and Ada Nield Chew in Louise Whittle’s excellent piece on Monday, it has to be said that Clare Balding’s Secrets of a Suffragette is yet another item focused on one already well-known figure in the fight for women’s suffrage. Despite this sticking point, the programme nonetheless offers some interesting insights that make it worth a watch, as Catherine Elms discovered when she reviewed it for us:

…An interesting section is where Balding visits The Women’s Library and reads the hate mail that Davison received – “I hope you suffer torture until you die… I should like the opportunity of starving and beating you to a pulp.” As my friends and I noted while watching the programme, this is remarkably similar to the aggression that feminist activists deal with online today, perhaps highlighting just how far ahead of their time they were!

The last 20 minutes or so focuses on Davison’s death, where a forensics team analyses the film footage in depth for the first time. It has always been assumed that Davison threw herself under a horse and that it was pure chance that it happened to be the King’s horse – this is the view held by Balding’s family, who are horse racing enthusiasts. However, upon investigation, the team reveal that the footage in fact implies that rather than a suicide, it was a protest gone wrong. The restored footage shows that Davison is holding something; this is later revealed to be a suffragette sash that reads “VOTES FOR WOMEN”. The team to speculate that, in fact, her intention was to throw the sash around the king’s horse so that it would go past the winning post wearing the votes for women colours – a great publicity stunt for the cause…

Click here to read the review in full and comment

This programme is on 4oD until 25 June 2013.

Image description: Black and white portrait of Emily Davison taken before 1913. She wears feathers, medals and a wide-brimmed hat. This image is in the public domain.

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