Through the centuries, jewelry has served as a symbol of love, wealth, social status, power, and even played a role in political life. Just as pins, ties, cuff links and tie tacks in donkey or elephant motifs serve as symbols of the democratic and republican parties today, so, too, does Suffragist Jewelry stand for the community of women engaged in the long-fought battle to secure their right to vote.
Three women’s suffragists casting votes in New York City, ca. 1917 (Photo courtesy Everett Historical)
There were many, many women’s suffrage groups across Europe and America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and all of them had their own approach and unique set of slogans and colors. While Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are best known in the United States for their efforts on behalf of women’s suffrage, Eva Peron was instrumental in fighting for passage of legislation to allow women the vote in Argentina, while in Britain, Emmeline Pankhurst spearheaded one of the largest and most militant of the worldwide women’s suffrage groups, The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
National Woman’s Party suffrage protestor, burns a speech by President Wilson in Washington, D.C. September 16, 1918. (Photo courtesy Everett Historical)
In 1908, the WSPU adopted the colors of purple, white and green for their banners, sashes, etc. and declared the colors to represent dignity, purity and hope. Popular myth has long suggested that jewelry comprised of green, white and violet stones created a secret acronym for “Give Women Votes”, but that is more romantic than it is accurate. In fact, jewelry made of purple amethysts, white diamonds and green garnets is considered Suffragist Jewelry only if made in the years after 1908 and before 1914 when women’s suffrage efforts took a back seat to supporting the nation as a whole during the First World War. Currently, The Museum of London contains the largest collection of memorabilia from the Suffragist movement.