Suffragette’s cache in the attic auctioned for £18,000

A collection of suffragette memorabilia discovered in a Sutton garage was sold at auction yesterday for more than three times its estimate, at £18,240.

Some of the items in Seymour’s collection

The hammer came down at the auction at Farleigh Court Golf Club on a lot that included a scrapbook kept by Isabel Seymour, a secretary for the Women’s Social Political Union.

According to Catherine Southon, the auctioneer, the vendor of the collection kept the items in his loft until “his daughter said that they should do something with it last year as it was the centenary of the suffragette movement”.

Southon said, “This previously unseen personal archive gives an insightful look into the day-to-day administration of the WSPU, as well as a valuable historic insight into both the suffragette movement, its members and its administrative workings.

“It is both official and deeply personal at the same time. It contains references to, and documents political marches and protests to the Prime Minister and Parliament, many of which ended in the incarceration of their members. It also highlights the more personal and light-hearted gatherings of the members of the WSPU such as theatre performances, dinners and lunches and fund-raising events.”

Isabel Seymour was an invaluable administrator and confident speaker for the WSPU. As hospitality secretary to the movement she arranged accommodation for visiting suffragettes so they could attend events in London. She also organised bail for those who’d been arrested.

She also travelled to Berlin, Austria and Russia on a speaking tour to promote women’s rights. After some years in Canada she returned to England and went on to become a county councillor in Hampshire.

Many of the documents are directly connected to the political activism of the WSPU during that time, including some signed by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. Also included was a private recording of a speech delivered by Frederick-Pethick Lawrence in 1947 to the Suffragette Fellowship as well as steward tickets for speeches, propaganda pamphlets and even an entry ticket for a breakfast given to suffragettes on their release from Holloway Prison – cost 2 shillings.

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