China

 Among the more memorable forms of suffrage artifacts are those English tea sets distributed by the WSPU and the WFL along with the several varieties of luncheon ware produced by Alva Belmont, Newport, Rhode Island socialite and founder of the Political Equality Association.

Mrs. Alva Belmont  There is a certain air of mystery surrounding the dinnerware ordered by Mrs. Alva Belmont from the English manufacturer John Maddock and Sons both in terms of when it was used and how many different pieces exist.  It was once thought that they were produced for a suffrage event that took place in 1909, but mint marks on the back of several of the pieces suggest a later date.  They were probably made for the Council of Great Women Conference that took place in 1913 in conjunction with the opening of a new Chinese Tea House on Belmont’s estate at Marble House and the simultaneous return of her daughter, Consuelo, from England. Currently, Marble House has five different pieces on display, a 9″ luncheon plate, a coffee cup and saucer, a bread or cake plate, and a soup bowl. There is a possibility, somewhat unlikely, that a full size dinner plate also exists.

Additional Pieces  There are at least three additional pieces known of Belmont dinnerware manufactured in the same design, a small creamer, an oval celery plate, and a small berry dish.  While they could have been used at Marble House, there is no record that they necessarily were.  The creamer was sold for 25 cents at the Political Equality Association’s shop in New York, and the other pieces could also have been distributed there.

NAWSA Demitasse  Probably the most widely distributed of all examples of American suffrage china was this demitasse sold by the National American Woman Suffrage Association for 50 cents each.  Both cup and saucer were embellished with a small gold rim that was inscribed “Votes for Women.”  The cup is marked on the bottom “Hutschenreuther Selb Bavaria–The Art China New York Import Company.”

St. Louis World’s Fair  This tiny cup was distributed at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904 by the “Madison County Chapter 8439 PHK.”  Because of the misspelling in “Women’s Sufferage Committee,” it was probably intended as a joke item and not connected with any official suffrage organization.

 

 

Perhaps the best known of all English suffrage china tea sets is that designed by Sylvia Pankhurst featuring an image of an angel, facing left, blowing a horn, all done in the official purple, green, and white colors of the Women’s Social and Political Union.  The set made its first appearance at the famous exhibition at the Prince’s Skating Rink at Knightsbridge, London, held from May 13-26, 1909.  Known pieces include a teapot, a tea cup and saucer, a dessert plate, a small milk jug, and a sugar basin.  Parts of the set, manufactured by the firm of Williamsons of Longton, Staffordshire, were later reissued in a larger size.

Another Sylvia Pankhurst design featured her famous “Portcullis” or Holloway Prison image that was originally appeared on badges given to those members of the WSPU who had been imprisoned for suffrage activities.  The arrow pictured on these cups represents the “prison arrow.”  In addition to the cup and saucer pictured here, a creamer is also known. Although unmarked, the china was probably made by the firm of Williamsons.

Minerva Club China   The Minerva Club was an outgrowth in 1920 of the Minerva Cafe, which hosted luncheons and lectures during WWI. It was developed by the Women’s Freedom League, the breakaway organization from Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union. Pieces in the set, as seen in the pictured soup bowl, all contain a rim in green and gold, which, along with white, were the official colors of the WFL.  The small medallion transfer includes an image of Minerva, the Roman Goddess of War, Wisdom, and Protection, along with the words “Women’s Freedom League—Minerva Club.”

For further information about these and other examples of suffrage dinnerware, consult my forthcoming book from McFarland Press, Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated Historical Study.

 

 

4 thoughts on “China

  1. Hello Mr Florey

    I’m currently doing research for my second year Ceramics BA essay and am looking to focus on the ceramic ware of the suffragettes. What a wonderful find your website is, until I came across it I was only aware of the ‘angel’ tableware, to find there is more is very exciting!

    I think that your book will be a wonderful source for me when I expand the subject through to my 3rd year dissertation, unfortunately for my 2nd year deadline, April is just too far away! I have bought “Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture & Votes for Women” by Margaret Mary Finnegan after seeing your recommendation on here but I was wondering if it would be possible for you to relay any more detailed information you may have regarding the production, sales and use of these or if that is not possible re-direct me to another source?

    I am also looking to discuss whether the suffragette ware could be considered ‘subversive ceramics’ and was wondering if you had any opinions on the subject?

    Thank you in advance!

    Christina Bolt

    • First of all, let me congratulate you for choosing a fascinating topic. Very little beyond a few generic comments has been written about suffrage ceramics, so the field for intensive study is yours. The best source that I know of for the topic, beyond period newspapers, is Elizabeth Crawford’s Encyclopedia of the English movement, which you can find a link to on the home page of this site. Virtually nothing has been written on the ceramics of the American movement. Ava Belmont’s china is frequently seen but is the subject more of myth than fact. I will be sending you in a separate email information on English china from my forthcoming suffrage memorabilia book that may answer some of your questions regarding production and sales. Good luck, and I would love to hear from you when you are done with your study!

  2. Thank you again for your helpful emails, the investigation so far has been so rewarding. Connecting with the ‘real people’ stories as part of our recent history (that I think is very much taken for granted by post “baby boomer” generations for one reason and another) has been a genuine pleasure and eye opener. In my explorations I came across this short but lovely Radio 4 excerpt from A History of the World in 100 Objects featuring a Suffragette defaced penny – oh how I would love to find one! I hope your blog visitors will find it interesting

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/iVUVhaKVREWjsHrr9IoOOA

    • Christina–Your enthusiasm is quite refreshing, and I thank you for the Radio 4 link, Be careful about defaced pennies, though. At times it is difficult to tell the difference between a coin that was defaced by suffragists and one that was done recently. On eBay, one seller indicates that he has a machine that will punch out “Votes for Women” on old coins, and he is selling those coins for $19.99.

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