We have on display in our hall a suffragette badge. The badge is styled as a portcullis with the prison motto of the arrowhead mounted on the face in the suffrage campaign colours of purple, green and white. On either side of the badge are free-hanging chains representing the gate ropes. The badge was presented to imprisoned suffragettes on their release from Holloway. Richard Pankhurst credits his mother Sylvia with designing the so-called ‘Holloway Badge’.
Until now the story of whose badge it was was lost. We’ve just discovered however that this particular badge has a fascinating local link. It was presented to Lillian Forrester in 1913, when she was released after she had been imprisoned for damaging artworks in Manchester Art Gallery.
The Manchester Guardian of 4 April 1913 reported the event as follows:
“Just before nine ‘clock last night, when the Manchester Art Gallery was about to close and few people were about, an attendant in a room leading to the big room of the permanent collection heard crackings of glass follow each other rapidly. He immediately rushed into the big room followed by another attendant, who was nearby. They found three women [Annie Briggs, Lillian Forrester and Evelyn Manesta] making a rush around the room, cracking the glass of the biggest and most valuable paintings in the collection. They had already completed their work on the right side of the room going in, where pictures by such great artists as Watts, Leighton, Burne-Jones and Rossetti were hung, and were going around the top of the room. The outrage was quickly and neatly carried through, and when the attendants came running in the women were within reach of two more large pictures – one by Millais, the other by Watts. The attendants at once rushed to arrest them but as there were three to two of them the women escaped from the room. The attendants, however, called to the door-keeper and immediately the big doors were closed and the retreat cut off.
The women were quietly kept within closed doors while the Town Hall were informed. The Chief Constable and a superintendent at once went across and took the women to the Town Hall. There they questioned them and, after charging them, allowed them out on bail until this morning, when they will appear before the stipendiary magistrate.”
The women had left in the gallery a small hammer, around which was tied a ribbon declaring “Votes for Women” and “Stop Forcible Feeding”. Lillian Forrester made a statement stating that “we broke the glass of some pictures as a protest but we did not intend to damage the pictures”. When the case came to court she was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. The judge stated: “If the law would allow I would send you round the world in a sailing ship as the best thing for you.”
The Art Gallery story is told in detail by Michael Herbert at http://radicalmanchester.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/the-suffragette-attack-on-manchester-art-gallery-april-1913/.
Lynette Cawthra, Library Manager