When I finished my A-Levels, it was pretty much a given that the female school-leavers would work in an office or a shop. When Emily Wilding Davison reached maturity, it was expected that she would be a governess or a teacher. Those were our options, though I had the potential for more with a bit of effort. She did not.
We both opted for further education, in order to boost our opportunities. My first degree was free, paid for by the local authority. Emily had to work full-time as a governess to pay her college fees. I was able to attain my Master's Degree. There's nothing (except cash and inclination) stopping me pursuing a doctorate; maybe even a professorship too. All of these were unattainable for Emily.
She was restricted by her gender. She could reach no higher than college. At that point, her zest for learning was promptly stifled. No formal avenues were left open to feed her intelligence with academic stimuli.
In those circumstances, it would take an insanely optimistic person not to sink a little into resentment, pity and boredom, particularly as her male class-mates could carry on. Even where their grades were lower than her own, a university education beckoned for the boys.
I ended up (assuming that I've stopped formal education for good now) two academic levels higher than Emily did. In both of our cases, culture has played a part in where we stopped. Emily had no choice. Her gender dictated where the glass ceiling sat. She would have loved to have continued, but the option wasn't there.
For me, gender is no barrier to education. But arguably social class is. I live in a predominantly working class area, which isn't exactly teeming with graduate level employment. I tried when I achieved my first degree. Part of the reason that I took my Master's was to elevate myself a little higher, in the hope of that lucrative employment. There was still nothing there.
This is where inclination kicks in. Why bother putting myself through the hard work and near insanity of a thesis, when there are no graduate jobs around here? In this way, social class has factored into where I stopped my formal education.
However there is a key difference between the experiences of Emily and me. She had no choice. I do. It's inclination based on class, not class itself, which halted me. I could move. I could save my money, do the work and live somewhere with appropriate employment prospects.
The limitations on Emily's opportunities were imposed, mine are self-imposed. Though there is a argument that the notion of relocating away from all I know and love is an indirect imposition.
I would instantly lose the support network of my extended family in the close vicinity. In 2013, the likelihood is that those with doctorates will be middle class, which could influence who I'd be living and working alongside. Seeing as I have a broad regional accent, I would probably have to change my diction, in order to be understood by my new neighbors.
These prospects are so unattractive, as to practically guarantee that I won't aspire to it. Yet that doesn't alter the fact that I could. Emily could not. That is the major difference between our situations.
Nevertheless Emily Wilding Davison and I gained our qualifications. One century apart, we each rode a tide of hopes and dreams straight to the job market. Yet she still ended up as a governess and I still ended up in an office.