One was the German-born actress Kitty Marion (1871-1944), who famously endured more than 200 force-feedings while on hunger strike in prison. The other was Clara Elizabeth Giveen (b.1887), who was also force-fed before release under the Cat and Mouse Act.
Medal for valour
Giveen’s medal for valour was offered for sale at Halls (20% buyer’s premium) in Shrewsbury on October 24.
The medal, with green, white and purple ribbon, has three engraved clasps: For Valour (July 3, 1913, and November 24, 1913) and another reading Fed by Force 1/3/12 – while the original box is inscribed to the silk: Presented to Clara Giveen 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.
Also offered as part of the lot were a silver toffee hammer engraved March 1912 (as awarded to window-smashers) and a silver prison portcullis, the official piece of jewellery designed by Sylvia Pankhurst for women who had been imprisoned or force-fed.
Both are valuable items (the portcullis medal can bring over £2000), while an extra collectable was a gilt metal badge for the Union of Licensed Vehicle Workers, a militant trade union for taxi drivers that became a founding constituent of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. Offered as an ensemble with an estimate of £6000-8000, it found plenty of willing buyers before selling at £12,000.
Only around 100 hunger strike medals are thought to have been made. In 2004 the medal for valour awarded to Mary Richardson, the Canadian-born militant Suffragette who, in protest at the re-arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst in March 1914, slashed the ‘Rokeby’ Venus with an axe at the National Gallery, took £19,000 at Dix Noonan Webb.
More recently, in this year marking the centenary of the women’s vote, a large archive relating to the Welsh suffragette Kate Evans – including her hunger strike medal – was bought by National Museum Wales for £40,000 at Catherine Southon Auctioneers in July.