Odes to the “ettes” – suffragettes

Saturday 8th March, is International Women’s Day and there is no better day to pay special tribute to the suffragettes for the sacrifices they made to give women the vote, and their work towards creating an equal society which continues today.

The Hipsterette would like to honour the “ettes” of the suffragette movement who thought women should look picture perfect when protesting the injustice of women not having the vote. The suffragettes ladies from the aristocracy wore Edwardian lace blouses and marched alongside shopgirls in lace collars, expertly stitched to their black dresses, and both sets knew the value of “good hair”, with their tresses artfully pinned to best advantage.

1908 demonstration, Hyde Park, London

1908 demonstration, Hyde Park, London. The white dresses are worn with purple/green sashes. Photo courtesy of Hel’s “Art and Architecture, mainly” blog.

The colours most of us associate with the suffragettes are purple, green, and white which were associated with the Pankhurst group who were the most militant. But, there were variations to these colours as some organisations wished to distance themselves from the Pankhurst’s extremes. The Women’s Freedom Movement chose green, yellow and white; the Married Women’s Association used green and white; the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship colours were green, red and white; Women’s Suffrage Societies used two colour combinations: green, gold and white, and red and green. Ruby, white and green were the official colours of The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

Pendant with white enamel, pearl drop, purple and green stones, and Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested at King's Gate in May 1914

Pendant with white enamel, pearl drop, purple and green stones. Photo courtesy of Hel’s “Art and Architecture, mainly” blog. Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested at King’s Gate in May 1914. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, from “My Own Story” by Emmeline Pankhurst. London: Virago Ltd., 1979. Originally printed 1914 by Hearst’s International Library Co. USA.

Jewellery also become identified with the suffragettes, and women were encouraged to “wear the colours” to show support for the movement. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst promoted their three colours: Green equals Give, White equals Women and Violet equals the Vote. After the 1900s there was a general movement towards softer, more feminine colours in jewellery with coloured sapphires, peridot and spinel gaining popularity. Art Nouveau design was a la mode, and diamonds were gaining support and becoming more accessible.

Brooch with amethyst, moonstone and chalcedony

Brooch with amethyst, moonstone and chalcedony. Photo courtesy of Hel’s “Art and Architecture, mainly” blog.

Almost all women depended solely on their husband’s or father’s income and generosity at the time, and one wonders how they managed to acquire jewellery in the colours of the women’s movement? Did they, for example, frugally save for it, economising on housekeeping expenses and their allowances, or did they request a special piece of jewellery as a birthday, Christmas or other occasion gift? Wearing this jewellery allowed women be fashionable as well as making a quiet statement of their support for “Votes for Women”.

1909 bracelet, olive green peridots and purple amethysts

1909 bracelet, olive green peridots and purple amethysts. Photo courtesy of Hel’s “Art and Architecture, mainly” blog.

Some suffragettes literally wore “badges of honour” such as the Holloway Prison brooch and hunger strike medals as women were being tried and jailed in larger numbers.

Holloway Prison Brooch and Hunger Strike Medal

Holloway Prison Brooch and Hunger Strike Medal. Photos courtesy of Hel’s “Art and Architecture, mainly” blog.

In the 21st Century, designer and genius, Vivienne Westwood continues in the tradition of the suffragettes, and declares that Shoes must have very high heels and platforms to put women’s beauty on a pedestal.

A pair of Vivienne Westwood designed shoes

A pair of Vivienne Westwood designed shoes on display at a Sheffield exhibition in which model Naomi Campbell famously fell over on the catwalk. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Vivienne also says I wanted women to dress as if they were important… I don’t want them to lose their power, which is a good enough reason for me to dress up. And, perhaps more poignant is another Vivienne Westwood quote: It’s a philosophy of life. A practice. If you do this, something will change, what will change is that you will change, your life will change, and if you can change you, you can perhaps change the world.

Nota Bene: A sincere thank-you to Hels, author of Art and Architecture, mainly blog for allowing me to use the photographs. Visit her blog and you’ll be enriched.

 

2 Comments on Odes to the “ettes” – suffragettes

  1. yvonne
    March 17, 2014 at 2:48 am (3 years ago)

    where would we be without these memories!

    Reply
  2. Fiona @TIFFIN bite sized food adventures
    March 8, 2016 at 5:36 pm (1 year ago)

    Thanks for sharing your link. One of my favourite travel memories is when I visited the Museum of London and they had a Suffragette exhibition. I still have the book. Let’s do a joint post or link up next year.

    Reply

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