It’s our 42nd wedding anniversary today and Bryan has surprised me with a present! I am now the proud wearer of an antique enamelled brooch in the shape of a flag that bears the slogan ‘Votes for Women’. It’s an authentic piece of merchandising originally sold by the Women’s Social and Political Union.
He arranged to buy it, without my knowledge, when we were in London at the beginning of May. Suffrage historian and antiquarian Elizabeth Crawford supplied with it the following information:
Unusually, it’s possible to date this badge pretty accurately. It is marked on the back with the maker’s name ‘Toye’, which was in usage between 1898 and 1909 when the passing of a new Companies’ Act meant that henceforward it was known as ‘Toye & Co’. Toye produced much of the WSPU merchandise, including the Hunger-Strike medals.
The 31 December 1908 issue of Votes for Women lists all merchandise that the WSPU was selling at that time – and this ‘flag design’ brooch is not included. However, as the WSPU was about to launch its big fund-raising event – the Exhibition at Prince’s Skating Rink – they had clearly added to their wares and the 14 May 1909 issue of Votes for Women included amongst the new items this Brooch – described as ‘Flag (words “Votes for Women”) 1/- each.’
These items are now extremely rare and highly collectable. I’m perfectly certain that Bryan paid vastly more than one shilling for it! I’d admired the design (seen in photographs) and wrote it into a WSPU shop scene in Sally Heathcote, Suffragette. You can see Kate’s loving representation in the first panel on page 62. It’s also one of the items in the box at Sally’s bedside at the beginning and end of the book. I never expected to hold the genuine article in my hands. Wow.
A totally unexpected anniversary gift, though actually he gave it to me around three weeks ago. When the brooch arrived, he was bursting to tell me about it and couldn’t wait! I shall wear it with pride.