Suffragette Medal for Hunger Strike and for Valour bought for £27,250…
The undoubted highlight of the Coins, Militaria and Collectors Spring auction at Lawrences was the Suffragette medal awarded to Anna Lewis. With the recent centenary and increase in public awareness, there is more interest than ever in the heroic and selfless actions of the women who were prepared to be arrested and suffer the pain and indignity of hunger strikes and force feeding to make the government of the day acknowledge their right to a vote. The medal, consigned by a local collector who had owned it for many years, had been awarded to Suffragette Anna Lewis. It was marked with the words ‘Hunger Strike’ and ‘For Valour’ with a date of 10th February 1914. It is a small medal that represents so much. There were also two badges in the form of a portcullis grill adorned with a ‘government property’ arrow enamelled in the green white and purple of the suffragette movement. Photographs, badges and other ephemera accompanied the lot, making it highly desirable to collectors of Women’s history.
The inside of the box that the medal was awarded in bears an inscription ‘Presented to Anna Lewis, 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’. Little is recorded of Anna Lewis’s later life, but it is known that she lived until the age of 87 and set up a home to care for other women activists who had suffered for their beliefs. Anna Lewis herself never quite recovered from the damage to her throat from being force fed.
The medal was offered for sale on May 16th and, from the moment the sale was announced, the auctioneers were inundated with enquiries from around the world. At the auction there were a number of telephone bidders competing against collectors in the room and online bidders from a number of foreign countries. Bidding rose rapidly, slowing as it reached £18,000 and progressed more slowly from this point as two determined bidders competed to secure the lot. The final premium inclusive figure of £27,250 was very pleasing for the vendor and auctioneers as this made it one of the highest prices ever achieved for such a medal.
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