Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

On February 27 auctioneer Catherine Southon is offering a collection relating to Suffragette Isabel Seymour, who was a secretary for the Women’s Social Political Union (WSPU), estimated at £3000-5000.

Such material connected to the battle for votes for women has been eagerly competed for by bidders ranging from collectors and dealers to museums – not least an archive including a ‘hunger strike’ medal sold by Southon in July 2018 which made a house-record hammer price of £40,000.

It related to Kate Evans, who was born in Wales in 1866. Estimated at £8000-10,000 and consigned for sale by family, it sold to National Museum Wales.

“Following that wonderful archive, we are delighted to have been asked to sell another interesting collection,” said Southon.

Garage find

It was found by the owner in a friend’s garage about 30 years ago and is estimated at £3000-5000 in the auction held at Farleigh Court Golf Club, Selsdon in Surrey.

 “At the time the vendor asked his friend ‘what’s this’ and his friend said: ‘oh you can have it’ and gave him the archive and the record,” added Southon. “He always dismissed it and as he moved from home to home he has always just put it in the loft. He only really took interest when his daughter said that they should do something with it last year as it was the centenary of the Suffragette movement.

“Although somewhat fragmented, this previously unseen personal archive gives an insightful look into the day-to-day administration of the WSPU as well as a valuable historic insight into both the Suffragette movement, its members and its administrative workings.

“It is both official and deeply personal at the same time. It contains references to and documents political marches and protests to the prime minister and Parliament, many of which ended in the incarceration of their members. It also highlights the more personal and light-hearted gatherings of the members of the WSPU such as theatre performances, dinners and lunches and fundraising events.”

Seymour was an invaluable administrator and confident speaker for the WSPU, said Southon. As hospitality secretary to the movement she arranged accommodation for visiting Suffragettes so they could attend events in London. Later, as the movement gathered momentum, she organised bail for those who had been arrested.

She also travelled to Berlin, Austria and Russia on a speaking tour to promote women's rights. After some years in Canada she returned to England and went on to become a county councillor in Hampshire. 

Many of the documents are directly connected to the political activism of the WSPU during that time including documents signed by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.

Also included is a private recording of a speech delivered by Frederick-Pethick Lawrence in 1947 to the Suffragette Fellowship as well as a handwritten draft for a Votes for Women speech delivered at a rally in Inverness, photographs of Suffragette marches, both press and personal photographs including an image of Jessie Kenney (1887-1985), Suffragette and secretary to the WSPU, as well as steward tickets for speeches, propaganda pamphlets and even an entry ticket for a breakfast given to Suffragettes on their release from Holloway Prison, cost 2/-.

southon suffragette 1.jpg

On February 27 auctioneer Catherine Southon is offering a collection relating to Suffragette Isabel Seymour, who was a secretary for the Women’s Social Political Union (WSPU), estimated at £3000-5000

A year of impressive results

Other notable Suffragette auction results last year included an archive relating to three Suffragette sisters which was bought at a Hansons sale by a well-known dealer in memorabilia.

Elizabeth Crawford, who was awarded an OBE last year for services to education and the understanding of women’s history, was successful as bidding soared above the £1000-1500 estimate to sell for a hammer price of £16,000 on July 2 in Etwall, Derbyshire.

The archive, which belonged to sisters Edith, Florence, and Grace Hodgson – one of whom went to prison for the cause – was discovered under the stairs at a north London property.

On October 24, a Suffragette medal awarded to Clara Elizabeth Giveen offered with the silver hammer given to window-smashers and a silver prison portcullis, the official piece of jewellery designed by Sylvia Pankhurst for women who had been imprisoned or force-fed, took £12,000 at Halls of Shrewsbury.

Back in June 13, 1913, just five days after the infamous death of Emily Wilding Davison under the king’s horse at the Derby, two Suffragettes had set fire to the Hurst Park grandstand in Surrey. One was Giveen, who was force-fed in prison before release under the Cat and Mouse Act.