Collecting Suffrage: The WSPU Holloway Brooch

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. If you are hoping to own one of your own, I have one for sale – see

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.




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  1. #1 by artandarchitecturemainly on October 24, 2012 - 2:31 am

    My article on jewellery was based more on colours and symbols that only the movement members would have known about. But I was delighted to read The Women’s Suffrage Movement: 1866-1928 – it examined suffragette jewellery whose symbol­ism is based on prison related objects eg chains.

    Did I know that the brooch was designed by Sylvia Pankhurst and the portcullis symbol was from the House of Commons? I can’t remember now *middle aged sigh*, but I will add a link to your post straight away. Many thanks

  2. #2 by acsilver on November 15, 2012 - 1:51 pm

    Having a keen interest in brooches from antique and vintage periods i found this post very formative and will be reading more about the Holloway brooch.

    • #3 by womanandhersphere on November 16, 2012 - 10:11 am

      I’m glad you found this information useful. As I think I make clear, one of my betes noires is the miss-selling (as I see it) of so much early-20th century jewellery as ‘suffragette’ when there is no justified provenance. On the other hand there appear to be no end of willing, gullible buyers. At least with the Holloway brooch and other such similar items we have no doubt as to their relevance to the suffrage cause.

  3. #4 by acsilver on February 11, 2013 - 1:58 pm

    Agree with your statement Elizabeth and many people feel the need to mislabel pieces to encourage a sale. That is why its always nice to come across pieces where this cannot be disputed – like the Holloway brooch. Regards

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