A famous person you know in your country.
You should say:
Who the person is
Why he is famous
What makes you mention specifically him/ her
and describe what positive changes this person has brought to your country
Ooh, I thought at first the cue card meant someone I know personally, or had actually met! That would be really hard, I’m not very well connected. Erm, there are so many famous people in my country – England, part of the United Kingdom. I could pick the Queen, I think she is one of the most recognized people the world over, but I think that’s too easy and predictable. I’m going to pick instead a famous person from English history, you may never even have heard of her, but she is really important in terms of contributing to political change in my country, and although perhaps not everyone knows her name, most people would know about what she did.
I’ll tell you who the person is, why she is famous and what makes me choose her. Finally, I’ll try and explain how she has contributed to positive change in the UK.
This person is Emily Wilding Davison, she was born in the 1870s and died, famously, in June 1913. She is famous, or even infamous, because she was a militant activist who fought for women’s suffrage – that is for women to have the same rights to vote as men – in Britain. She was one of a number of women who protested in different ways about the inequality that existed. At that time, only men were allowed to vote in elections, something that seems incredible today. Some of the protestors took direct action, leading to them being arrested and imprisoned for their views. Once imprisoned, some took it further and went on hunger strike, leading to them being force fed – Emily herself was jailed on numerous occasion – nine I think, and force fed nearly fifty times. The reason though, that she is particularly remembered amongst the many women who campaigned so vociferously, is that it was her who apparently died for the cause. On 4th June 1913, she stepped out in front of the King’s own horse when it was racing as part of the famous race the Epsom Derby (this horse race still takes place each year today). She suffered fatal injuries and died a few days later. There was a huge public funeral, and thousands of suffragettes accompanied the coffin and tens of thousands of people lined the streets of London.
People have different opinions about whether she actually intended to kill herself, or just to disrupt the race to bring attention to her cause. Personally, I think she would have wanted to live on to continue her protests and contribute to the debate, but her life was cut short aged only 40 years old, by accident. I have chosen her because I think she was a brave and principled woman. I might not approve of all her actions, but without her efforts, and people like her, women would not have ultimately gained the vote in this country, which I consider to be a basic right. Women fought hard for that equality, so I think it’s very important that all people (men and women) exercise their democratic right to vote. It was a right that was hard won but potentially easily lost. Democracy is an imperfect system, but it the political one we have in the UK, and I believe women and men should have equal influence in how it is executed. It takes courage sometimes, to stand up for what you believe in, and her courage cannot be disputed.
It is hard to say that any one action or person brought about the enfranchisement of women, but certainly her actions on that day brought the debate about women’s equality to center stage. It led to more men supporting the campaign, widening the voices of arguing for equal rights and over time. Some women got the vote in 1918, after the first world war, but only those who were householders over the age of 30 (6 million women); women over 21 did not get the vote until 1928, so perhaps it’s only then you can say there was equality. She, therefore, contributed to the positive change of bringing about equal rights in voting for men and women in the UK.
Over time in this country, people have come to take the right to vote for granted, I think the contribution of the suffragettes in general and Emily Wilding Davison, in particular, might come to be forgotten over time. I was pleased therefore to hear that a new film is coming out on exactly this period of history, it’s (unsurprisingly) called ‘Suffragette’! I haven’t seen it yet – I wonder how close it will be to the truth of those times – perhaps we’ll never know!