100 Years Of Ignoring Your Opportunities?

"Gordon Bryan", "goal achievement"I’ve been writing a lot about anniversaries lately, 2013 sees 20, 40, 60 years since some landmark events. In this article I’m going back 100 years, and you can decide about its importance, maybe even vote…

Of course the fact that we can vote in elections (and yes I accept it was a cheesy link!) is something we take for granted. It’s not something that’s true in every country, not by a long way, and 100 years ago in Britain, you couldn’t vote if you were woman.

The suffragette movement was well established by 1913, and the mass rallies and small acts of protest had seen some more militant members go to starting fires and causing real damage.

Lots of arrests on a regular basis, and one woman arrested many times was Emily Davison. A former governess, she had endured force feeding in prison, and by Spring of 1913 she was broke and unemployable.

So, with nothing to lose, she decided to go out with a bang. She took the train to Epsom race course, and as The Derby unfolded, she committed suicide by throwing herself under the King’s horse.

Or did she..?

I remember being taught about her suicide at school, but from watching some documentaries about her story, it seems that for many years it has been thought she didn’t intend to die at all.

She was carrying a scarf with the suffragette colours, and had intended to attach it to the bridle of the King’s horse, but it had gone wrong. So goes one theory, backed up by the fact that groups of women from the movement had been seen practising doing exactly that to horses on the gallop.

We’ll never know, just as we’ll not really know the effect her death had. The impending outbreak of World War 1 saw many changes in British society, not least the fact that women had to take over many of the men’s jobs as they all went off to the front lines.

That change had a lasting impact, and it could have been that as much as anything which brought in the vote for selected women, followed by full equal voting rights for women years later.

It might be hard to imagine not being able to vote, simply for being a woman – it’s particularly hard for me, since I’m a man(!), but I wouldn’t want the right taken away from me while it’s available to others.

It’s amazing, therefore, how many women (and men) don’t vote. They say they can’t be bothered, or that it won’t make any difference. Yes, there is a problem with ‘career’ politicians, who seem to make decisions based on keeping their job as their priority, but the fact remains, certainly in Britain, that our system is set up in a way that can make a difference, and is available for most people to take part.

I know, as I’ve stood for election twice.

As I campaigned, I was amazed at the ignorance of the system, at the quickness to moan and the equal quickness to declare non participation.

That can happen when we live in a steady, established system – it gets taken for granted, and that’s why the 100th anniversary of Emily Davison’s death is worth noting, to remind ourselves that it wasn’t always that way.

The racing industry and media made effort to mark it, and I think it’s a good idea to take a look at things we take for granted. Voting rights for women is one such abundance – not available to women back in 1913.

We have so much abundance around us, so much opportunity to take the bull by the horns and change things if we so choose – so, 100 years on from Emily Davison’s death, instead of slipping into the easy mode of moaning, how about rolling up the sleeves, getting stuck in and taking advantage of what we have available to us!

Ok, do let me know what you think, I love the feedback!
‘Til Next Time,
Health & happiness,
P.S. You might also enjoy this anniversary article: 20 Years Of Free Internet – 20 Years Of Opportunity?

Do leave a comment!

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  • I’ve just been talking with my daughter who had been reading a story to her two year old son (my grandson).

    She told me that at the end of the story by Dr Seuss, was the phrase “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.”

    I’m thinking that this must have been the belief held by the suffragettes, including Emily Davison.

    When we care (about ourselves and about others) we can bring our strength to bear on improving things. And those we help can then bring their energies to making things better as well. And so on and so on… (hopefully)

    Thanks for posting this very inspirational post Gordon. I feel that much better for reading it.

    • Thanks Dave,
      That’s a great expression, and spot on – when someone helps you, you can then pass that help on to others. In a world where it’s easy to spread misery and gloom, the positivity spreaders are vital! I was definitely inspired by the fight for women’s votes, and Emily is still remembered 100 years on.

  • This is a frustration to me, too, Gord, that so many people take for granted how wondrous it is to live in a country where you do have a say–through the voting booth! How quickly it could be taken from us, and then we would realize how blessed we were. This is such an interesting story. It seems impossible that women were ever denied the right to vote, and really in such recent history, too.

    • Yes Amy,
      considering how recent it really is, how sad that so many just dismiss this opportunity as worthless. Yes, I found people that were willing to learn when I engaged them, but so many others showed no spark of curiosity about it at all! I’ll keep plodding on, with a much easier path than Emily had 100 years ago.

  • I LOVE this kind of topic! History- and British to boot! Very interesting about the whole suffragette movement both there and across the pond. I’m glad I found you. I think I’ll follow!

    • Hi Cheryl,
      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it – it’s the kind of story that always appeals to me too – we forget how easy we have it compared to those that struggled before us!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting,

  • Hi Gordon,
    I personally think we need to keep fighting for democracy because some of the people in authority are constantly trying to subvert the system:

    – they introduce policies that they never had in their manifesto e.g. mass immigration
    – they drop others that they did
    – they won’t give us a vote on really important issues like our membership of the EU
    – they introduce policies like quantitative easing and low interest rates that has the effect of stealing from the pensioners and savers
    – look at the current online spying scandal

    I don’t trust anyone in authority nowadays – police, bankers, politicians, media, health chiefs – they have all suffered scandals recently. We need to constantly watch them and expose them and hold them to account. There is no room for complacency.

    • I agree – no room for complacency, and holding authority to account, often challenging it, as the suffragettes had to. Women voting would have surely come eventually, but they certainly brought the issue to the forefront.
      Thanks for stopping by Mark!

  • This was really interesting. I love history, especially world history, and I didn’t know much about the women’s suffrage movement in other countries. In the US, women didn’t get the vote until 1920. I vote in every election; civic duty was taken very seriously in my family, so much so that my dad often said that if one didn’t vote, then one had no right to complain about the state of things.

    • Hi Kay,
      The USA and Britain were about the same timescale on women’s voting. I also vote, and in fact have stood twice, and I do take the view that if you moan, you should vote, or at least have some knowledge of the situation, which so many people don’t!

    • Thanks Samantha,
      You’re right – It’s not hard to find someone to moan about things, but when you suggest opportunities it’s like talking to a brick wall!

  • The first time I could ever vote was in 2011 in Australia so in some ways, although not to the same degree, I have experienced not being able to. I am English but left England at age 13. I lived in various countries finally settling with my Norwegian husband in Norway. I never became a Norwegian citizen as the Norwegians don’t allow dual citizenship and I wasn’t going to give up my British passport. Later I travelled here and there on assignments, never being allowed to vote in any of the countries. In 2011 I became an Australian citizen and was allowed to vote for the first time. I felt like a child, I had no idea what I was doing but I appreciated the fact that I was allowed to. Voting is compulsory in Australia which was also new to me but makes sense with a lower population. We can’t complain if we don’t at least make an effort to change things.

    • wow, not being able to vote all that time must have been weird! You have hit the nail on the head with your last sentence, and it’s why I relate the story of Emily Davison to self improvement/goal achievement – we have so many opportunities around us, yet so many do indeed just moan, without making the slightest effort to change things.. I try to persuade as many as possible!

  • What a fabulous post Gordon. Every time there is an election I make sure I vote and make a lot of noise about it, and encourage others to do so, especially young women. Last election, I started to suggest that people take their children, especially daughters, to the polling station so they know how it works and accept it as a normal part of life. I used to take Oliver when he was younger and now he is 17 and a half I am talking about how he will be able to vote next time. As a woman, I am so grateful to live in a country where I am allowed to do anything that a man can do, including vote, although we still have a long way to go before we really *feel* equal in every way.

    I grew up in a hot country and for many years I used to resent living here in the cold, rainy, gloomy weather. Then one day I realised that I should be grateful, as a woman, to live in one of the best countries in the world to be female, where I have the most opportunities and am recognised as a person in my own right. Now, I remind myself of this every time I want to complain about the weather, and it really helps!

    • Ha! I like you having a fallback to go to when you moan about the weather! I’ll have to think one up for myself.
      Britain is a country that is easy to moan about, and I do wonder if ‘our’ actions in the past have contributed to it. However, we have the most amazing opportunities in this country, one of which was not available to Emily Davison – if only more people would choose to take advantage of them rather than ignoring them.

  • Hey Gordon,

    a cracking article matey. They could improve things a whole lot by simply implementing the system we have here in the colonies. You don’t vote – you get fined! Simple as that. We not only have a right to vote, – we have an obligation to vote.

    It works quite well too. The turn out figures are not perfect, but they are a whole lot better than the UK. (Sorry, I’m not really a turncoat!)

    All the best buddy,


    • Hi Paul.
      Thanks. Yes, this whole subject is such a good example of people moaning, when the chance to act and do something about it, is right in front of them. It happens in so many areas, which is why I tend to bang on about taking the opportunities, which haven’t always been available, as Emily’s story drives home.