The Amazing Story Of Woman Prisoners Given Commemorative Jewellery!

Holloway Brooch
Holloway Brooch

In the 1970’s as an art student, I attended a fascinating presentation about Female Artists and designers. It was at this presentation, I learnt about Frida Kahlo, Elizabeth Siddal and Sylvia Pankhurst.

Sylvia Pankhurst was one of the most amazing women of the 20th Century. A founder member of the Woman’s Social and Political Union, she was a brilliant artist and one of most innovative designers of the 20th Century.

One of my favourite Sylvia Pankhurst Designs was the ‘Holloway Brooch’. The Brooch is highly symbolic. The brooch is composed of several elements. The portcullis is a symbol of the House of Commons. The gate can represent a passage or transition from one area of space or time to another. Hanging chains can represent limitations put in place by authority. The superimposed ‘broad arrow’ is also called the Imperial Brand or King’s Mark and was originally used to brand English Horses during the Hundred Years War. It is also known in some quarters as the ‘convict symbol.’

Some of the brooches are marked with dates of imprisonment. The brooch was first mentioned in Votes for Women, the WSPU newspaper, in the issue of 16 April 1909, described as ‘the Victoria Cross of the Union’.

The first presentation of the Holloway brooches took place at a mass demonstration, organised by the WSPU in the Albert Hall on 29 April 1909. It was held to coincide with the meeting in London of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. Present, on the platform were a large number of ex-WSPU prisoners. To honour their sacrifice, the WSPU members were presented with the first ‘Holloway’ brooches. At the time this made International headlines. Sylvia Pankhurst herself was photographed at 65 wearing this iconic Brooch.

The Teacup, emblazoned with an artwork inspired by the Holloway Brooch can be dated to the spring of 1909. It came from a collection that had once belonged to Mrs Rose Lamartine Yates who held fund-raising teas for the Wimbledon WSPU on the lawn of Dorset Hall, her 18th-century Merton house. By sheer coincidence, I live in a house ten minutes away from Dorset Hall. As a tribute to Sylvia Pankhurst, I created this iconic artwork and had it emblazoned on some beautiful mementos at CAFEPRESS. I have also created a HOLLOWAY BROOCH Board on PINTEREST. If you want to know more about Sylvia Pankhurst, her amazing life and work, go to If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. My name is Steve Howard – You have been reading the Digital Circus.


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