Votes For Women: Suffragette Badges

On August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution. It declares: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."


Controversy and Division 

The movement that would create this amendment had its roots 80 years earlier. In the 1840s, the American women's rights movement began and the first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls in 1848. The most controversial resolution of the convention was that supporting women's suffrage. In the end, only 1/3 of the attendees signed the resolution supporting women's suffrage, in spite of the fact that people such as Frederick Douglas argued in favor of it. But as time went on, the issue became a solid plank of the women's rights movement. Two national women's suffrage organizations were eventually established in 1869. One was led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the other by Lucy Stone. There was violent rivalry between the groups for decades.

Unity and Militancy

Eventually in 1890 the two groups joined forces under the leadership of Susan B. Anthony.

For many years, the women's suffrage movement worked through the political and court systems. But progress was slow. In 1916 the National Woman's Party was formed, a militant group that engaged in picketing, chaining themselves to the White House fence, and hunger strikes to gain attention for their cause. These methods proved effective, and the Nineteenth Amendment was passed just four years later, in 1920.

American Women's Suffragette Badges. NWHM.
Suffragette Badges

The British militant group, the Women's Social and Political Union, formed in 1908. One of the actions of the WSPU was to have a permanent affect on women's jewelry and accessories: They purposely chose a noticeable, attractive color scheme for the women's suffrage cause.

A brilliant tricolor theme was chosen for the WSPU activities. Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence, co-editor of the weekly newspaper Votes for Women, wrote in 1908:

Rosette belt. Museum of London.
Purple as everyone knows is the royal colour. It stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity…white stands for purity in private and public life…green is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring.

The colours enable us to make that appeal to the eye which is so irresistible. The result of our processions is that this movement becomes identified in the mind of the onlooker with colour, gay sound, movement, and beauty.

American and British suffragette badges shared the penchant for purple, but where British ladies paired it with green, American ladies added brilliant yellow. Both color schemes fulfilled their purpose: they were noticeable!


Suffragette Cockades

Many suffragette badges were simply metal lapel pins, but some were beautiful ribbon badges. I offer both American and British suffragette badges in my shop.



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