Suffragette Branding

How the Women's Social and Political Union used events and branded merchandise to raise funds for their campaigning.

By Museum of London

Young Suffragettes advertising The Women's Exhibition (1909-05) by Broom, ChristinaMuseum of London

Fund-raising

The Women’s Social and Political Union was underpinned by a strong financial foundation. Raising funds for the campaign ‘war chest’ was a key responsibility of all Suffragettes. These funds were needed to raise the profile of the campaign print propaganda pamphlets, organise meetings,  and pay full-time Organisers to spread the Votes for Women message around Britain.

Doll dressed in prison clothing (1909-1914)Museum of London

Local WSPU branches organised garden parties, afternoon teas, bazaars, and fairs that relied on members’ established skills of baking, sewing and embroidery, and their experience of charity fund-raising.

Putney & Fulham WSPU branch shop (1910) by Broom, ChristinaMuseum of London

From WSPU headquarters a range of merchandise - including games, badges, ribbons and postcards - was produced and sold, via mail order and at WSPU high street shops. In London alone there were 19 such shops, staffed by willing volunteers.

Suffragette silk motor scarf, 1908, From the collection of: Museum of London
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WSPU badge, 1908-1910, From the collection of: Museum of London
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WSPU enamel badge, Lewis, W.O., c. 1909, From the collection of: Museum of London
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Votes for Women badge, c. 1909, From the collection of: Museum of London
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Votes for Women lapel badge, c. 1909, From the collection of: Museum of London
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WSPU Christmas Card (1908) by Women's Social and Political UnionMuseum of London

Pank-a-Squith board game (1909) by Women's Social and Political UnionMuseum of London

The Pank-a-Squith board game was first advertised in Votes for Women on 22 October 1909. The game depicts the suffragettes' struggle with Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and the Liberal government.

By rolling the dice, players attempt to move a Suffragette figure from her home to the Houses of Parliament, her course being hindered by a number of obstructions along the way.

The game was distributed and sold through the network of high-street shops run by the Women's Social and Political Union. As well as raising funds for the campaign, it brought the Votes for Women debate into the domestic drawing room and was popular with the whole family.

Women's Social and Political Union china teapot (1909) by H M Williamson & SonsMuseum of London

Suffragette tea set

One of the most attractive and desirable pieces of merchandise commissioned by the WSPU was the Suffragette tea set, with its trumpeting angel design by Sylvia Pankhurst. 

Women's Social and Political Union China sugar bowl (1909) by WilliamsonsMuseum of London

This was one of several symbolic designs and logos Sylvia created for the WSPU, all part of the Suffragette movement’s unique visual identity.

Women's Social and Political Union china tea cup and saucer (1909) by H M Williamson & SonsMuseum of London

This was one of several symbolic designs and logos Sylvia created for the WSPU, all part of the Suffragette movement’s unique visual identity.

WSPU badge designed by Sylvia Pankhurst, Pellett Ltd., 1909-1910, From the collection of: Museum of London
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The Women's Exhibition (1909-05) by Broom, ChristinaMuseum of London

Women's Exhibition

This tea service had its origins in the spectacular Women’s Exhibition and Sale of Works in the Colours. This two week exhibition took place at the Prince's Skating Rink in Knightsbridge, in May 1909. Most of the objects for sale were decorated in the Suffragette colours of purple, white and green. The exhibition combined three key WSPU priorities: raising funds, recruiting members and raising the profile of the campaign.

The Women's Exhibition programme (1909)Museum of London

Flyer, Women's Exhibition and Sale of Work (1909) by Barber, GeorgeMuseum of London

Millinery Stall, Women's Exhibition (1909-05) by Broom, ChristinaMuseum of London

Over fifty stalls, decorated in purple, white and green, sold items made and donated by Suffragettes or local businesses, keen to appeal to the female consumer.

Stalls were organised and manned by local WSPU branches, including the Millinery Stall, run by the Kensington branch, with donations of hats from leading London stores including the department store Liberty.

Dress stall at The Women's Exhibition, Broom, Christina, 1909, From the collection of: Museum of London
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Flower stall at the Women's Exhibition, Broom, Christina, 1909-05, From the collection of: Museum of London
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Farm Produce Stall at the Women's Exhibition, Broom, Christina, 1909, From the collection of: Museum of London
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Sweets stall at the Women's Exhibition, Broom, Christina, 1909-05, From the collection of: Museum of London
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Refreshment department at the Women's Exhibition (1909-05) by Broom, ChristinaMuseum of London

To capitalise on the fund raising potential of the event, every stall was expected to display goods with a value of at least £100 (worth almost £10,000 by 2018 values).

The tea service was designed for use in the refreshment stall. Staffed by young volunteers, dressed in green dresses and white muslin aprons with a purple ribbon, this was the most successful and popular of the 50 stalls, taking a total of £600 over the two weeks.

Refreshment department, Women's Exhibition (1909-05) by Broom, ChristinaMuseum of London

As the Votes for Women newspaper noted: ‘a good idea is to make up parties for tea...One must have tea somewhere – why not at Prince’s? Invite your friends to meet you there for tea’.

Refreshment department at the Women's Exhibition (1909) by Broom, ChristinaMuseum of London

At the close of the exhibition, additional funds were raised by selling the tea services - either as individual pieces or whole sets.

Hence many have survived beyond the exhibition, and are still to be found in museums and private collections.

At the Museum of London we hold a sugar bowl, teapot, and cup and saucer.

Women's Social and Political Union Drum & Fife Band (1909-05-15) by Broom, ChristinaMuseum of London

Many visitors to the exhibition were, according to Votes for Women, previously ‘strangers to the militant cause’.

Many were encouraged to pay the entrance fee after seeing the promotional processions that took place in the days leading up to the event, including the street performances by the newly formed Women’s Drum and Fife Band.

Suffragette stand at The Women's Exhibition, Knightsbridge (1909-05) by Broom, ChristinaMuseum of London

Regarded as a huge triumph by the organisers, the Women’s Exhibition raised in total over £5,000 for the Suffragette 'war chest', and recruited over 250 new members.

WSPU Bazaar, 1911 (1911) by F. Kehrhahn and Co.Museum of London

Similar large fund-raising bazaars followed, in Glasgow in 1910, and London in 1911, but none quite matched the scale, spectacle, innovation and success of the Women’s Exhibition of 1909.

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