A unique brooch that belonged to Millicent Fawcett, President of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (1890 – 1919) will go on permanent display for the first time this week at the Museum of London.
The brooch, on long-term loan from the Fawcett Society, is highly symbolic and represents the long struggle for women’s right to vote in parliamentary elections that dominated politics in the early 20th century. The gold and enamel piece made specifically for Millicent as a gift from loyal members of the NUWSS to their inspirational leader, includes gems in the white, red and green colour scheme of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. On the reverse, is the message ‘Steadfastness and Courage’, a direct reference to a speech made by Millicent in 1913.
Millicent spent her life campaigning for women’s suffrage and equal rights. At the age of 19, she organised signatures for the first petition for women’s suffrage even though she was too young to sign it herself. Between 1907 and 1919 Millicent was President of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (the NUWSS) from 1907 -19, the largest non-militant suffrage campaign group. Her ’steadfastness and courage’ in the long struggle for the female suffrage played a key role in securing the first extension of voting rights to women in 1918. The commissioning of the brooch was the initiative of the London Society of the NUWSS with contributions from members and branches nationwide.
Social & Working History Curator at the Museum of London, Beverley Cook said: ‘The Museum of London has a unique and vast collection of objects relating to the militant suffragette campaign, key items of which are on permanent display. The brooch is, however, a highly welcome addition to the display and enables us to represent the key role also played by those women who fought constitutionally for the right to vote without taking direct militant actions. Thanks go to the Fawcett Society who have provided us with the opportunity to share the brooch with our visitors and represent the peaceful protests that many women advocated in the fight for suffrage.’
Fawcett Society Chief Executive, Sam Smethers, said ‘Millicent Fawcett was awarded this brooch for steadfastness and courage in 1913. She built a movement of tens of thousands of people over more than 60 years of campaigning. That suffrage history belongs to all of us. We are delighted that this unique item will now be on display for thousands more to see it in it’s fantastic new home at the Museum of London.’
Millicent regularly wore the brooch, often as a pendant and it is included on the statue of her by the artist Gillian Wearing unveiled in Parliament Square in April 2018. The brooch also featured on a commemorative edition of the popular programme Antiques Roadshow that marked the centenary of partial female suffrage and was on temporary display at the Women’s Library in both 2016 and 2018. This will be the first time it is on permanent display.
Visitors can see the brooch from 13 March in the People’s City Gallery at the Museum of London.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Fawcett Society.