Medal honouring UK suffragette hunger striker with Bermuda links to be sold
An “extremely rare” silver hunger strike medal awarded to an activist with Bermuda links will go under the hammer at a UK auction house this month.
Stroud Auction Rooms contacted The Royal Gazette about the 1912 medal awarded to Frances Outerbridge for her role in the suffragette movement’s fight for votes for women.
The freedom fighter, born in Wales in 1847, was the niece of Bermudian businessman and prominent political figure Thaddeus Outerbridge – and cousin of Anna Maria Outerbridge, a Bermudian activist in the island’s suffragette movement.
Anna Maria persuaded her father, a Member of the Colonial Parliament, to propose the first Women's Franchise Bill after a petition was presented to the Colonial Assembly in 1895.
The Bill, which would have given voting rights to women in Bermuda, passed the Lower House but was defeated in the Legislative Council by one vote.
It was rejected again in 1896, and Bermudian women would not get the vote until 1944.
The Bermuda connection was highlighted by Lyn Bowkett, a senior manager at Stroud Auction Rooms in Gloucestershire, who called the medal a “fascinating” rarity.
The silver medal, struck to commemorate a demonstration on March 1, 1912 was given by the Women’s Social & Political Union, a militant women’s group in Britain known for civil disobedience.
Members were often imprisoned, and would go on hunger strike in jail because they were not treated as political prisoners.
The medal was put up for auction by a descendant of Frances Outerbridge.
The lot also includes a lock of Ms Outerbridge’s hair in a jewellery box, and two lorgnettes – handheld spectacles.
The medal commemorate Ms Outerbridge’s “gallant action, whereby through endurance to the last extremity of hunger and hardship, a great principle of political justice was vindicated”, and is engraved with the date of her arrest.
Stroud’s lot description said: “It is hard to believe that the cousins Anna Maria and Frances Outerbridge were not in regular contact, given that they shared a common cause.”
It added that Ms Outerbridge was a close friend of Caroline Lowder Downing, another suffragette hunger strike medal recipient.
Ms Downing was arrested three times before she was jailed in for her part in smashing a window on March 1, 1912.
The tactic was one of several used by the WSPU – and the auctioneers believe Ms Outerbridge’s medal was for the same incident.
Records show a Frances Williams was arrested at the same time, which suggested Ms Outerbridge gave the authorities her mother’s maiden name.
Both women appeared at London’s famous Bow Street Magistrates’ Court on March 19.
About 100 of the medals were issued, with a silver bar to mark each hunger strike.
Women in Britain were given the vote in 1919. But in Bermuda the fight continued and the Bermuda Women's Suffrage Society was formed in 1923.
The movement was led by Gladys Misick, later Gladys Morrell. Gladys Morrell became a National Hero in 2015.
The suffragettes in Bermuda did not take militant action, but highlighted their case through demonstrations such as annual ‘funeral’ services to mourn “the passing of justice”.
The medal is due to be auctioned on January 12.