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Elizabeth Crawford, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List earlier this year for services to education and the understanding of women’s history, particularly relating to the Suffragette movement, was successful as bidding soared above the £1000-1500 estimate to sell for £16,000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium) at the sale in Etwall, Derbyshire.

The sale comes as another fascinating Suffragette archive including a rare Hunger Strike medal is about to be offered at auction, at Catherine Southon’s sale in Surrey on July 25, estimated at £8000-10,000 (see below for more details).

Shoebox find

The Hansons archive, which belonged to sisters Edith, Florence, and Grace Hodgson - one of whom went to prison for the cause – was discovered tucked away in a forgotten shoebox in a cubby hole under the stairs at a north London property.

The sisters kept everything relating to their political fight including numerous badges, white enamel Votes for Women pins, the famous Suffragette sashes, a leaflet providing ‘hints for women who have never marched in a procession before’ and even a Women’s Freedom League pennant featuring Holloway Prison and the words, ‘stone walls do not a prison make’.

Also in the archive are 101 period postcards featuring leading lights in the movement including Emmeline Pankhurst, Lady Constance Lytton, Mrs Pethick Lawrence, Mrs Borrmann Wells, seen at work in prison, and Anna Munro.

Hansons’ valuer Isabel Murtough said: “The seller came to a free Hansons’ antiques valuation event with the collection. I knew at once that it was extra special. The owner said she’d place the item in our auction if I thought it would make more than £150.”

The items were inherited by the anonymous owner’s late husband. She said: “The three Suffragettes were his great-aunts and he used to catch the train to visit them with his family. They were born in Islington and lived in a three-storey house in London. Each had a floor to themselves. They never married or had children but there was one other sister, May, who did marry and moved away.

“When the last sister died my late father-in-law, May’s son, cleared the property and many items were sold. But he was a hoarder and kept many things. When he passed away 12 years ago at the age of 94 we found the box of suffragette items in a cubby hole under the stairs. It was one of the last things we found as we were clearing the house.”

It is known that the Hodgson sisters, Edith, born in 1880, Florence, born in 1881 and Grace, born in 1888, lived at 39 Laurier Road, Dartmouth Park, London. In the 1901 census Edith was a milliner, Florence was noted as working for The Post Office and Grace was 13.

By 1911 all three are absent from the census, probably in protest. Many suffragettes deliberately avoided census night. Grace, the youngest sister, appears on the role of honour for Suffragette prisoners, 1905-1914, but it is not known why she was sent to jail.

Crawford, the successful buyer, launched her business – Woman and Her Sphere – in 1984, dealing in books and ephemera by and about women, ‘women’s history’ then being a new and developing academic field. Subsequently, inspired by the material passing through her hands, she has published six books, mainly on the women’s suffrage movement.

Two of these, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference Guide and Art and Suffrage: a biographical dictionary of suffrage artists, are, she hopes, useful to the trade.  Crawford’s website (womanandhersphere.com) details her comprehensive catalogues, together with articles that are the result of her historical research.

After the sale, Crawford said: “This collection is very unusual and it will give me great pleasure to research and catalogue these items. I will be looking into the lives of the sisters. As a dealer, I can’t promise that all the items will stay together but some of them will go to important institutions which could not have afforded to buy the collection in its entirety.”

Imprisoned for 54 days

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The Suffragette Kate Evans archive being sold at Catherine Southon's auction on July 25 estimated at £8000-10,000.

Meanwhile, the Suffragette archive at Catherine Southon’s auction at Farleigh Court Golf Club, Selsdon in Surrey on July 25 relates to Kate Evans, who was born in Wales in 1866, and is estimated at £8000-10,000.

Growing up, Evans was interested in politics and spent a considerable time in Paris. While there she met with people interested in the Womens Social and Political Union (WSPU) and in her early 30s she joined the union and was an active member. She became a Suffragette to the dismay of her parents, who thought the behaviour of these women was quite shocking.

On March 4, 1912, she was arrested and imprisoned for 54 days in Holloway prison. This collection is to be offered for auction by the family.

Southon said: “The collection has been kept within the family and has been treasured which would account for the condition of the hunger strike medal which is exceptional.”

Included in the lot is this silver medal and a archive of letters, books and ephemera relating to Evans. The medal is engraved Hunger Strike to the obverse and Kate Evans to the reverse, complete with the distinctive three coloured ribbons representing purple (dignity), green (hope) and white (purity), and two silver bars - one engraved March 4th 1912.

Only 100 of these medals are known to exist and this one is contained within original velvet lined presentation box with printed inscription to the silk lined lid, sold together with an accompanying letter from the WSPU stating that Miss Evans has been presented with a prison brooch.

Among the other items included is a Metropolitan Police arrest warrant issued to Kate on March 4, 1912, for ‘Malicious damage’, and Holloway Jingles, a collection of poems written by the Suffragettes contained within a pictorial printed outer green cover with images of the inside of the cells. Southon said that this is possibly a first edition and includes two poems by Evans titled 'Who?' and 'The cleaners of Holloway'.

Eyewitness account

Also up for sale, this time at West Sussex saleroom Bellmans on July 17, is an eye-witness account of the moment when Emily Davison walked onto the track in front of King George V’s horse ‘Anmer’ at the Epsom Derby on June 4, 1913.

It is in the form of a letter written by ‘Len’, the son of one of the staff at ‘Greenhill’, Upham, Southampton, to his parents. Although undated, its original envelope is postmarked Epsom, June 8, 1913. The letter is estimated at £400-500 and offered with two other letters relating to the writer and his family.

A passage from the letter; says: “‘I dare say you have read about that suffragette who stopped the King’s horse, well I was standing within fifteen yards of that when it happened. Several ladies fainted and the crowd would probably have linched [sic] her if the mounted police had not formed a ring…”