Scarf thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Scarf

ca. 1910 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Featuring the slogan ‘VOTES FOR WOMEN’ and the colours purple, white and green, this silk scarf must be connected to the women-only militant Women’s Social and Political Union or WSPU, which was active from 1903 and went on to embrace the term 'suffragette'.

This women’s suffrage group used these three colours from 1908. As the suffrage researcher Elizabeth Crawford has explained, before this the WSPU had used red and white flags, ‘although it is unclear whether this was to show solidarity with socialism, with suffrage, or simply because it made a bright banner’. The new colour scheme, chosen by WSPU leader Emmeline Petherick-Lawrence in May 1908 and publicly launched at the Women’s Sunday rally which took place in London in June that year, was intended to promote the organisation and display unity. In ‘The Political Importance of the Colours’ published in Votes for Women on 7 May 1909, Christabel Pankhurst wrote, ‘every member of the Union will become an advertiser for the Exhibition, and will bring […] a dozen or a score, or an even larger number, of men and women of her acquaintance who, seeing for themselves, will appreciate for the first time the strength of the woman’s movement’. Petherick-Lawrence expounded on the intended symbolism of these colours: purple for dignity, white for purity and green for hope. The WSPU's purple, white and green colour scheme was used on a wide range of items including sashes, badges and banners. Various contemporary women’s suffrage groups used colours in these ways.

This votes for women campaign blended forceful feminism with traditional femininity, partly to dispel the argument that emancipated women would become ‘unwomanly’. Both aspects of this approach are neatly encapsulated in this scarf, which boldly asserts women’s right to vote while being a fashionable feminine accessory resembling other long, floaty scarves of the era.

In 1918, around the time that the WSPU was dissolved, the UK government granted suffrage to women over the age of thirty who met a property qualification, ostensibly to recognise women’s contribution to World War I. All men over the age of twenty-one could vote in this part of the world. It took another ten years for this government to approve all women over twenty-one voting. The voting age was lowered to eighteen in 1969.

Object details

Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Woven and printed silk, satin weave and roller printing
Brief description
Commemorative silk satin weave scarf, slogan produced using roller printing reads 'Votes for Women', Britain, ca. 1910
Physical description
Commemorative silk satin weave scarf with purple, green and white/cream vertical stripes. Ends plain white/cream silk with the slogan 'Votes for Women' in green and purple letters produced using roller printing.
Dimensions
  • Length: 210cm
  • Width: 41cm
Marks and inscriptions
'VOTES FOR / WOMEN' (Printed capital letters, alternating in purple and green.)
Credit line
Given by G.Brett, Esq.
Subject depicted
Summary
Featuring the slogan ‘VOTES FOR WOMEN’ and the colours purple, white and green, this silk scarf must be connected to the women-only militant Women’s Social and Political Union or WSPU, which was active from 1903 and went on to embrace the term 'suffragette'.

This women’s suffrage group used these three colours from 1908. As the suffrage researcher Elizabeth Crawford has explained, before this the WSPU had used red and white flags, ‘although it is unclear whether this was to show solidarity with socialism, with suffrage, or simply because it made a bright banner’. The new colour scheme, chosen by WSPU leader Emmeline Petherick-Lawrence in May 1908 and publicly launched at the Women’s Sunday rally which took place in London in June that year, was intended to promote the organisation and display unity. In ‘The Political Importance of the Colours’ published in Votes for Women on 7 May 1909, Christabel Pankhurst wrote, ‘every member of the Union will become an advertiser for the Exhibition, and will bring […] a dozen or a score, or an even larger number, of men and women of her acquaintance who, seeing for themselves, will appreciate for the first time the strength of the woman’s movement’. Petherick-Lawrence expounded on the intended symbolism of these colours: purple for dignity, white for purity and green for hope. The WSPU's purple, white and green colour scheme was used on a wide range of items including sashes, badges and banners. Various contemporary women’s suffrage groups used colours in these ways.

This votes for women campaign blended forceful feminism with traditional femininity, partly to dispel the argument that emancipated women would become ‘unwomanly’. Both aspects of this approach are neatly encapsulated in this scarf, which boldly asserts women’s right to vote while being a fashionable feminine accessory resembling other long, floaty scarves of the era.

In 1918, around the time that the WSPU was dissolved, the UK government granted suffrage to women over the age of thirty who met a property qualification, ostensibly to recognise women’s contribution to World War I. All men over the age of twenty-one could vote in this part of the world. It took another ten years for this government to approve all women over twenty-one voting. The voting age was lowered to eighteen in 1969.
Bibliographic references
  • Miller, Lesley Ellis, and Ana Cabrera Lafuente, with Claire Allen-Johnstone, eds. Silk: Fibre, Fabric and Fashion. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2021. ISBN 978-0-500-48065-6. This object features in the publication Silk: Fibre, Fabric and Fashion (2021)
  • Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866–1928 (1999; London: Routledge, 2001)
  • Kenneth Florey, Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated Historical Study (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013)
Collection
Accession number
T.20-1946

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Record createdJuly 12, 2004
Record URL
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