Hunger Strike Medal

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The Hunger Strike Medal with enamel bar for force-feeding awarded to Myra Sadd Brown in 1912

The Hunger Strike Medal was a silver medal awarded by the leadership of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) to suffragette prisoners who had gone on hunger strike for not being recognised as political prisoners while serving sentences in the prisons of the United Kingdom. Many women were force-fed.[1]

The WSPU awarded a range of military-style campaign medals to raise morale and encourage continued loyalty and commitment to the cause. The Hunger Strike Medals were first presented by leadership of the WSPU at a ceremony in early August 1909 to women who had gone on hunger strike while serving a prison sentence at Holloway Prison for some act of militancy connected with the campaign for women's suffrage such as smashing windows.[2] Later the medals would be presented at a breakfast reception on a woman's release from prison. The round and hallmarked silver medals hang on a length of ribbon in the purple, white and green colours of the WSPU from a silver pin bar engraved ‘FOR VALOUR’, in imitation of the inscription found on the Victoria Cross. The obverse of the medal is inscribed 'HUNGER STRIKE', while on the reverse is engraved the recipient's name. The silver bars on the medal were awarded for periods of hunger strike and are engraved on the reverse with the date that the recipient was arrested leading to a hunger strike. The enamelled purple, white and green bars for force-feeding are similarly engraved on the reverse; the sculptor Edith Downing’s medal bar is engraved with ‘Fed by Force 1/3/12’ - the date that she was imprisoned which subsequently lead to her hunger strike and forcible feeding.[1] About 100 medals were awarded and could be issued with more than one bar representing multiple hunger strikes or force-feeding.[2][3]

Medal in its presentation case with silver bar for a hunger strike and enamel bar for force-feeding awarded by the WSPU to Mabel Capper

Each Hunger Strike Medal was presented in a purple box with a green velvet lining. A piece of white silk was fitted inside the lid which was printed in gold with the dedication: ‘Presented to [name] by the Women’s Social and Political Union in recognition of a gallant action, whereby through endurance to the last extremity of hunger and hardship a great principle of political justice was vindicated’. The medals were made by Toye & Co. and their manufacture cost the WSPU £1.00 each.[2]

The Museum of London holds the medal awarded to the suffragette leader Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst who went on hunger strike during a two month prison sentence in 1912 for throwing a stone at a window of 10 Downing Street.[1]

A medal found in a drawer awarded to suffragette Elsie Wolff Van Sandau who was arrested for smashing a window in Covent Garden on 4 March 1912 and who went on hunger strike in prison was sold at auction in 2019 for £12,500.[4][5] A medal belonging to suffragette Selina Martin, auctioned in Nottingham in 2019, expected to fetch £15,000[6] was bought by the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia for £27,000.[7] The medal awarded to Kate Williams Evans was sold at auction in 2018 and realized £48,640. It is now in the National Museum Wales.[8]

Medal recipients[edit]

Emily Davison wearing her Hunger Strike Medal and Holloway brooch c. 1910–1912

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Beverley Cook, Six things you should know about the Suffragette hunger strikes - Museum of London Collection
  2. ^ a b c Collecting Suffrage: The Hunger Strike Medal - Woman and Her Sphere website
  3. ^ Kevin Grant, Last Weapons: Hunger Strikes and Fasts in the British Empire, 1890–1948, University of California Press (2019) - Google Books pg.59
  4. ^ Suffragette's hunger strike medal found after 100 years - BBC News 30 May 2019
  5. ^ suffragette's hunger strike medal sells for thousands - Hansons Auctioners
  6. ^ Whitfield, David (2019-02-22). "Rare suffragette medal is expected to fetch over £15,000 at auction". nottinghampost. Retrieved 2019-10-04.
  7. ^ "Selina Martin Suffragette Hunger Strike Medal". Retrieved 2019-10-04.
  8. ^ Suffragette hunger strike medal archive sold for Catherine Southon house record to National Museum Wales - Antiques Trade Gazette 26 July 2018
  9. ^ Suffragette's medal sold at record price - ITV News 14 September 2015
  10. ^ Sarah Benett (Suffragette) - National Portrait Gallery, London
  11. ^ Suffragette hunger strike medal - Museum of Australian Democracy - 7 September 2011
  12. ^ Hunger Strike Medal awarded to Joan Cather (1912) - British Museum Collection Online
  13. ^ WSPU Hunger Strike Medal awarded to Alice Davies - Leeds University Library Galleries
  14. ^ Violet Mary Toy received a medal from Emmeline Pankhurst for joining the hunger strike in Holloway Prison - St Hilda's College, University of Oxford
  15. ^ WSPU Hunger Strike medal awarded to Caroline Lowder Downing, 1912 - Parliamentary Art Collection WOA S748
  16. ^ Suffragette hunger strike medal archive sold for Catherine Southon house record to National Museum Wales - Antiques Trade Gazette 26 July 2018
  17. ^ Rare suffragette’s Hunger Strike medal is set to be auctioned - Inside Croydon - 13 July 2018
  18. ^ Call for public's help to piece together life of Norfolk suffragette Caprina Fahey - Eastern Daily Press - 2 November 2017
  19. ^ a b "Chess Scotland". Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  20. ^ New exhibition tells story of women's campaign for the vote - Leicester City Council website
  21. ^ Suffragette Medal for Hunger Strike and for Valour bought for £27,250 - Lawrences Auctioneers - 20 May 2019
  22. ^ Suffragette hunger striker’s medal goes on display at museum - Belfast News Letter - 28 September 2018
  23. ^ New Zealanders and the British suffrage movement - Museum of New Zealand
  24. ^ Suffragette Talk: Who was Pleasance Pendred? - Glasgow Women's Library online
  25. ^ Suffrage Stories: ‘From Frederick Street to Winson Green’: The Birmingham Women’s Suffrage Campaign - Woman and Her Sphere
  26. ^ Unused ticket: The suffragette story in seven objects - BBC News website (2018)
  27. ^ Hunger Strike Medal to Gertrude Wilkinson (1912) - Women's Library Suffrage Collection
  28. ^ The Suffragette Handkerchief - at The Priest House, West Hoathly - Sussex Past
  29. ^ Hunger strike medal presented to Letitia Withall by the Women's Social & Political Union (1913) - National Library of Australia Online Collection