Sunday, February 24, 2019

SUFFRAGETTE JEWELRY!!



We're familiar by now with the concept that women who campaigned for the right to vote in Edwardian England and America chose to wear white as a symbol of virtue. But there's a fascinating fashion corollary.




Antiquarian or vintage jewelry sellers today enjoy selling pieces that they somewhat anachronistically associate with the Votes for Women cause--as Suffragette Jewelry, supposedly made in the colors of the Women's Social and Political Union. The WSPU was a major sufragette organization founded in Britain by Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst in 1903. As historical blogger Becky Stone points out in her excellent "Diamonds in the Library" post on this subject, The WSPU adopted green, white and violet as their colors in 1908--and one major London jeweler did, indeed, feature a page of sufragette jewelry in these colors in their catalogue that year. Give Women the Vote! as a slogan was neatly translated into precious and semi-precious stones, so that a woman could wear her politics on her sleeve. But as Becky adds, it's unlikely this was a widespread phenomenon. Jewelry was an expensive item women rarely purchased for themselves. The combination of colors from opposite sides of the spectrum was pleasing enough without a symbolic attachment, and newly-discovered peridots were in vogue in the Edwardian era in any case.


But let's explore the concept anyway.
Green stones (peridots or emeralds) symbolized giving, but also, of course, the word give.  White stones (pearls for the thrifty, diamonds for the extravagant) symbolized women. And Violet stones--amethysts--symbolized Votes!!

Suffragette rings are broadly marketed by vintage dealers these days. But Victorian and Edwardian women loved brooches--and particularly brooches that could double as pendants. They loved bracelets.  They loved matched sets, with earrings! All can be found in vintage combinations of stones in the green, white and violet range.





Knowing how little jewelry Jennie Churchill owned, I doubt she possessed any of these kinds of pieces. 




 I particularly LOVE this brooch, held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, formed from the ubiquitous Gilded Age symbol of the ouroboros--the snake eating its own tail, an image of eternity--in the suffragette colors.





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