Suffragette Jewels: the unique role of jewelry during women’s battle for suffrage

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- This year marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. One unique “mark of the movement” is the jewelry worn by suffragettes back in the early 1900’s.

“Women used jewelry to empower and unite them. And in fact — jewelry became symbolic of their allegiance to the cause,” says diamondologist Kim Kanary.

That cause meant women having a voice when it comes to voting in America. That said, many felt that couldn’t raise their voices at the time. According to Kanary, wearing jewelry of certain colors carried a symbolic message.

Green stood for hope, while purple stood for the ‘royal blood flowing through the veins of the suffragettes,’ and white meant purity.

“So they wore things like peridot, garnet, and amethyst, diamonds and pearls to showcase these colors in their jewelry,” she says.

Other pieces of jewelry carry a darker story, for example, the Holloway Brooch. This was named after the prison in London, England that women were sent to for participating in suffragette activity.

Another example would be medals honoring hunger strikes. These pins sported a ribbon with the suffragette colors and were typically worn by women who participated in that form of protest.

According to women’s rights activist Jennet Robinson Alterman one of those influential ladies was Alice Paul.

“When Alice Paul was force-fed because she went on a hunger strike…word got out to the press. And the press raised cane. And ultimately it led not only to Alice Paul being released from the work house…but it finally convinced Woodrow Wilson — who was president — that he needed to get behind this movement,” she says.

Most of the jewelry from the time period is difficult to find. Kanary says most of it has been sold, lost or melted down over the years.

Today, women are still finding ways to pay homage to their history, and the brave suffragettes that paved the way many years ago.

In this image from video, former first lady Michelle Obama speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

Even former First Lady Michelle Obama recently wore a “VOTE” necklace to the Democratic National Convention to commemorate the importance of women exercising their right to vote in the upcoming election.

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