To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March this month’s brooch was almost certainly made for and worn by a Suffragette. It is gold with seed pearls, amethysts and peridots. It has a small detachable hook with three seed pearls allowing it to be converted into a pendant, making it a versatile piece of jewellery. In 1908 the Suffragette movement adopted the colours of purple, green and white. The editor of the weekly newspaper, Votes for Women, wrote, ‘Purple as everyone knows is the royal colour, it stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity…white stands for purity in private and public life…green is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring.’ It was a genius example of branding and used to great effect. Women wore the colours in many ways to show their support for the movement. The three colours were incorporated and worn in a wide range of clothing, sashes, hats, coats and other items. Well-known retailers took up the cause, Liberties of London stocked fabric in the three colours, Lilley and Skinner had a whole window display of shoes in the suffragette colours and Derry and Toms, a department store in London, sold purple, green and white underwear. Mappin and Webb, the well-known jeweller and holder of the royal warrant, issued a catalogue of suffragette jewellery for Christmas 1908. Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, was their official artist and designed many items for them. One piece in particular I like is the Portcullis Brooch, commissioned to celebrate those women who suffered imprisonment and force feeding.
The silver and enamel brooch designed by Sylvia Pankhurst, the design of the brooch is the Portcullis of the House of Commons and the arrow shows the three colours of the Suffragettes. The brooch is now in the Museum of London where a modern facsimile can be bought. I might pop along some day and purchase one for my collection.
In the UK we have votes for women and a female Prime Minister for the second time but there is a depressing statistic from the World Economic Forum; they predict the gender gap worldwide won’t close entirely until 2186!