Don’t forget what suffragettes went through to give you a vote

Emily Davison who died under the hooves of the kings horse.
Emily Davison who died under the hooves of the kings horse.
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Before the general election I asked several young female members of the family if they knew where to vote.

Unbelievably, a large percentage told me they had no intention of voting.

The fire at Gunwharf Quays earlier this year

The fire at Gunwharf Quays earlier this year

I asked why and if they knew the reason women could vote today because less than a century ago they couldn’t. They had no idea.

I asked if they had heard of suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst or Emily Wilding Davison. They shrugged.

What about Flick Drummond, Penny Mordaunt and Caroline Dinenage, not to mention Margaret Thatcher or Theresa May?

A couple said they had heard of Thatcher and knew Dinenage was the daughter of Fred.

I then told them about the struggle women had gone through to win the vote which so many in Parliament were against.

Many went on hunger strike and were force-fed in the most inhuman way.

Emily Davison was killed when she stood in front of the king’s horse, Anmer, at the Derby on June 4, 1916.

She was trying to wrap a silk scarf with green, white and purple stripes around the horse.

Davison died of her injuries four days later, aged 40. It was believed her intention was for the king’s horse to carry the suffragette colours across the finishing line in front of the king and queen.

The injustice of it all was that newspapers put the incident down to a mad woman committing suicide and were more concerned the king’s horse was taken out of the race and a 100-1 outsider won, costing bookies a fortune.

It was not until 1928 that women got the vote. After last week’s election there are now 208 women MPs.

Emily is not completely forgotten. Thousands of visitors troop past a glass case on their way to the public gallery of the House of Commons, perhaps little understanding its significance.

It contains a faded, fragile silk scarf, stained with mud, the scarf Emily was wearing when she went under the king’s horse.

So I say to all you young girls who do not vote, at the next election, think about what those women went through and remember Emily.

• We can only feel great sadness for the victims of the Grenfell Tower inferno. Happily there has been no such catastrophe in Portsmouth although in September last year a fire broke out on the 13th floor of the 17-storey block, Handsworth House, Quinton Close, Landport. No-one died but 30 residents were treated for smoke inhalation.

In February this year there was a fire in flats above the Tesco Express store at Gunwharf Quays.

Serious fires in years past include Wall & Attwood’s, electrical dealers, in Crasswell Street, Landport.

One night in 1938 the store caught fire with flames shooting high into the air. Quickly, the roof fell in and the terrific heat caused the walls to bulge.

The store was in a heavily-populated area and only smart work by the Portsmouth City Fire Brigade stopped the fire from spreading.

Many local residents, with their children still in bedclothes, took refuge in St Faith’s Mission Institute in Crasswell Street.

Another fire in which flames leapt 100ft into the air was on April 27, 1939.

The fire at J Shervil, brass and iron founders in Unicorn Road, lit the sky and the flames could be seen from Portsdown Hill.

Houses in Little Charlotte Street, threatened by the wall of flames, were damped down, but the blaze spread to Timothy Whites store where rubber hosing and wooden crates increased the fierceness of the fire.

To help control the large crowd which gathered, 200 sailors were sent from the Royal Naval Barracks in Queen Street to form cordons.