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Remembering the fight for votes

PUBLISHED: 15:26 18 May 2018

Suffragette leader Emily Pankhurst addressing a meeting in London's Trafalgar Square. Collectables associated with the struggle to win the vote for women are in big demand.

Suffragette leader Emily Pankhurst addressing a meeting in London's Trafalgar Square. Collectables associated with the struggle to win the vote for women are in big demand.

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Antiques expert Mike Hicks looks at suffragette collectables.

By now, I am sure you are all aware that this year represents the 100th year since women were allowed to vote. It seems incredible that all that while ago there was a selection process that even males had to go through before they were able to vote and that women, despite making up at least half the country, were disenfranchised. It’s difficult to understand what justification there was for this clear injustice.

Prior to the Great Reform Act of 1832, voting was dependent on three important features: your sex, age and whether you were a property owner. Only men aged over 21 were allowed to vote but they had to own property over a certain value.

But 1832 changed all this. Those criteria were swept aside and it broadened the range of people allowed to vote to include landowners and shopkeepers and, also, householders paying more than £10 in rent per annum. This made it a little fairer but, again, no females were allowed to vote.

Then 1918 saw an incredible change of fortune, whereupon women were given the opportunity to vote - at last - for their MP. This came after 85 years of debate, protests, hunger strikes, representation through marches and political unions, The Women’s Freedom League and more militant organisations.This new Act allowed 8.5 million women the right to vote, but you had to be over 30 years of age. It wasn’t until 1928 that women were given the same equality as men.

Through all the struggles of those 85 years, various types of memorabilia have surfaced. The leading light, of course, was Emily Pankhurst. Any material that bears her name, especially her signature, is now highly collectable and fetches big money at auction today. Anything linked to the suffragette cause is widely collected.

The book produced with poems written by Pankhurst while she was in prison, sold recently for £1,300; a rare WPSU silver medal for valour awarded to suffragette Mary Richardson, was auctioned in 2003 for more than £20,000.

A good suffragette poster can fetch £5,000-£7,000, a genuine banner up to £2,000-£3,000; a ‘votes for women’ sash £2,000-£3,000, up to £1,200 for a cup and saucer and any toys from the period with a suffragette message on it, maybe £500-£1,000. Even a postcard was sold recently with an image of a suffragette on the front and signed by Emily Pankhurst made almost £200.

Mike Hicks runs Stalham Antique Gallery at 29 High Street, Stalham (NR12 9AH). Call 01692 580636 or info@mikehicksantiques.co.uk.


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