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Voting and the Holloway Brooch

Voting and the Holloway Brooch

What’s on your mind today-the election maybe?

There was a time, as women, the election remained just there, in our minds. We had no legal right to act on our thoughts, no right to vote. Thankfully, TODAY we do. And it seems a crucial act, as a woman, in the current political climate.

While those of us who will vote today do not have personal memories of a time we had to fight to possess that right, jewelry can tell us about some of the women who did.

Pictured above is Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), the British political activist and suffragette. Her women’s advocacy organization, the Women’s Social and Political Union, operated on a premise of “deeds not words” some of which included hunger strikes, assaults and destruction of property. Their acts of disruption and outrage caught attention of the authorities, and many members of the WSPU landed themselves behind the bars of Holloway Prison. This did not stop their deeds. But then, it is difficult to contain the acts of a group of people who congregate to acknowledge their shared oppression.

This is where the jewelry comes in. Emmelines daughter, Sylvia, wanted to create a symbol of their unity, strength and dedication to the cause of women’s rights and the right to vote. This came in the form of a brooch meant to be worn as a badge of honor for those women of the WSPU who served time in Holloway Prison. You can see Emmeline wearing her Holloway Brooch at the neck of her blouse. She earned it.

The Holloway Brooch

As with most jewelry in the Victorian era, it was rife with symbolism. The body of the brooch represents the House of Commons portcullis and chains, and the broad arrow, or the “convict symbol” is a direct reference to time served. The colors-Green, White, Violet-were associated with some groups of suffragettes and is meant to be interpreted by the first letter of the colors to read “Get Women Votes”.

These colors show up in a lot of jewelry from the time of the suffragettes in either gems or enamel. But it is difficult to determine, without provenance, weather the colors were intended as an homage to the suffragettes or just meant as pretty jewelry.

So, on this day that we can act on our minds and conscience (and that we still have some fighting to do for true gender equality), maybe you will be inspired to find a beautiful jewel of Green, White, Violet to wear to the polls in honor of how far we’ve come and the work yet to do. And, of course, because jewelry brings a happy sparkle to your day which can’t be a bad thing. Happy voting!

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