‘White for purity, green for hope and purple for dignity …’ the colours devised by Mrs Pethick-Lawrence in 1908 to symbolise the cause of the militant suffragettes. Marching suffragettes, or those attending meetings, would most likely have worn eye-catching sashes, medallions and motoring scarves made up of these colours. If a woman wanted to be more discreet however, she might have preferred to convey her sentiments by wearing a necklace, broach, or pin displaying these colours. This was a cunning way of attracting like-minded women (at a party, for example) while hiding one’s beliefs from the anti-suffragettes.
The more expensive items of jewellery might have consisted of amethysts, seed pearls garnets and emeralds. Paste jewellery would also have been worn provided the colours were accurate – personal wealth or lack of it, played no part in the cause.
Whatever the quality, suffragette jewellery is quite hard to find these days, and since starting my Dody McCleland series I have been on a quest for the genuine article. I am delighted to announce that on a recent trip to London (I think) I finally found the real thing.
The broach consists of a Siberian amethyst set with natural seed pearls and demantoid green garnets (See pic), circa 1908. Had it been any younger I would have been suspicious. For as well as being the Suffragette colours, purple green and white were apparently Queen Alexandra’s favourite colours, and incorporated into many forms of jewellery as homage to her during her reign.
So, there is only a small window of time when jewellery such as this can be seen as deliberately manufactured for the suffragettes: 1908, when Pethick-Lawrence first voiced the significance of the colours, to 1914, when the suffragettes ceased their activities. It looks as if my piece just fits into that window.
My broach would be in excellent condition if not for a missing seed pearl. Of course I like to think the pearl was knocked out during one of the suffragette’s infamous scuffles with the police. Taking that theory a few steps further, perhaps Violet was wearing it when she almost lost her life in A Dissection of Murder — what do you think?