Over the years I have expressed concern about the practice of dealers and auctioneers in labelling as ‘suffragette’ any piece of jewellery that combines stones approximating to suffragette colours of purple, white and green. I explained in another post [see https://wp.me/p2AEiO-nd] that such jewellery would have had no association with the suffragette movement, the colours were merely harmonious and fashionable, which was why they had been chosen by the Women’s Social and Political Union as their ‘brand’. This practice is, I am afraid, still rife, but at least I have tried to warn the trade and the public.
However, I am now increasingly worried by the number of deliberately faked suffragette objects that are being sold both on eBay and by British auction houses, often for high prices. Fake ‘suffragette’ flags, watches, cigarette cases, car badges, defaced coins, and woven cloth badges are the latest items to appear in auction house sales. Having specialised in suffrage ephemera – as an historian and a dealer – for over 35 years I can assure my readers that most of these objects either never existed in the ‘suffrage’ years and are being dreamed up – and manufactured – by unscrupulous sellers, or are modern copies. I do occasionally protest to terrestrial auction houses about individual items and they then invariably withdraw them from sale – but I cannot hope to stem the tide alone.
While I hate the idea of private buyers being duped, not only by spending large sums but also by thinking, erroneously, that they own an artefact with a real connection to the suffrage movement, my principal fear is that such objects will end up in public collections; indeed, I know this to have happened. If the institution is made aware of its mistake and removes the object from display, it has lost money; if the object passes into the collection unchallenged, it is legitimising a fiction. I would ask potential buyers to think carefully – and even consult an expert – before spending money on artefacts labelled as ‘suffragette’. Better still, research the movement carefully so that you can exercise your own judgment. There are still plenty of ‘right’ objects to be found but, as ever, this maxim holds: ‘If an item looks too good to be true, it probably is’.
To see something of the marvellous range of suffrage artefacts that were actually produced by suffrage societies do consult Ken Florey’s site. Although treating, in the main, items produced to publicise the US suffrage movement, he also includes a wide range of British items.
My website also includes a number of articles that may prove useful – under the ‘Collecting Suffrage’ heading. And, if you would like advice about an item you are thinking of buying, you can always ask for my opinion.