This is the ‘Holloway Brooch’ presented to members of the Women’s Social and Political Union who had undergone imprisonment. As such it is now a very desirable addition to any suffrage collection.
The first presentation of the brooches took place at a mass demonstration organised by the WSPU in the Albert Hall on 29 April 1909. It was held to coincide with the meeting in London of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. The presence on the platform of a large number of ex-WSPU prisoners and,to honour their sacrifice, the ceremonial presentation to them of the first ‘Holloway’ brooches was designed to make an international impression.
The brooch was designed by Sylvia Pankhurst. The portcullis symbol of the House of Commons, the gate and hanging chains are in silver, and the superimposed broad arrow (the convict symbol) is in purple, white and green enamel. Some of the brooches, but by no means all, are marked with dates of imprisonment.
The brooch was first mentioned in Votes for Women, the WSPU newspaper, in the issue of 16 April 1909, described as ‘the Victoria Cross of the Union’. However, in April 1909 WSPU prisoners had not yet begun using the hunger strike as a tool in their battle with the authorities. In recognition of that, which was considered the greater sacrifice, the WSPU instituted the hunger strike medal, the first of which was presented four months later.
Mrs Pankhurst chose to be photographed wearing her ‘Holloway’ brooch in this photograph- as, 65 years later, did the elderly suffragettes, Leonora Cohen and Grace Roe . The latter two, like many other women, had received both of the WSPU accolades.