The National Museum of Wales stepped in to buy a rare suffragette medal and the historic archive of Kate Evans at an auction staged at Fairleigh Golf Club in Selsdon yesterday.
The letters, books and awards of suffragette Kate Williams Evans fetched £48,640 – four times its estimated sale price – as competition for the valuable items was heightened in the centenary year of women in Britain being granted the vote.
Sioned Hughes, the keeper of history and archaeology at the National Museum of Wales, said: “This is an iconic collection for the history of the whole suffragette movement.
“While we had suffragist collections in Wales, and an example of anti-suffragette sentiment in Wales, until now we had very little in our collections relating to the Welsh suffragettes themselves. This collection will be a valuable asset to Wales’ political and national history collections.”
Kate Williams Evans was born in 1866 in Llansantffraid, in what is today known as Powys, and in her 30s she became an active member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, including being imprisoned for 54 days in Holloway in 1912, her hunger strike winning her the silver medal “For Valour”.
The Evans collection’s hammer price made it the most expensive lot sold in six years of TV auctioneer Catherine Southon’s auction house.
“We were honoured to be offering such an important and comprehensive collection,” Southon said. “The interest in this lot was phenomenal, with bidders, on the phone, from all over the world – I was absolutely staggered how people were competing to buy this fascinating collection and even more gob-smacked by the price it achieved.”
Included in the collection was a prescient letter from Mary Griffiths to Kate’s great aunt. It reads: “We can hardly realise at present what a debt of gratitude we owe the militant section of the suffragists, but I am quite sure that later on their heroism and devotion will be appreciated.”
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The record price was almost certainly due to the amazing archive which accompanied the medal, plus the Welsh interest. Another Suffragette medal sold the day before in London for £8,500.(hammer).