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This week, we are bringing an iconic collection to Wales: a very rare example of Welsh Suffragette memorabilia, which once belonged to activist Kate Williams Evans.

black and white photo of a woman wearing a jacket, standing next to a dog
Kate Williams Evans, Suffragette
[Photo: Catherine Southon Auctioneers]

Kate Williams Evans - from mid Wales to Holloway Prison

Born in Llansanffraid in 1866, Kate Williams Evans travelled to Paris as a young woman, where she developed a keen interest in politics. On returning to Wales, she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union – and, against her parents’ wishes, she became a suffragette.

On 4 March 1912, she was arrested and charged with ‘Malicious Damage’, and ultimately spent 54 days in Holloway prison. The collection contains letters which graphically illustrate the conditions in Holloway, and provides details about Kate’s hunger strike and the force-feeding she endured.

Hunger Strikes and Force-Feeding

photo showing medal on a purple, white and green ribbon, which reads 'Hunger Strike' on the front, and 'Kate Evans' on the back
Kate Evans' Hunger Strike Medal
[Photo: Catherine Southon Auctioneers]

Hunger-striking women were routinely restrained and force-fed by prison authorities – a practice which became a powerful propaganda tool for the suffragettes. The collection acquired by Amgueddfa Cymru includes an extremely rare Suffragette Hunger Strike Medal, given to Kate as an acknowledgement of the treatment she received in prison.

Only 100 Hunger Strike medals are known to exist – this is the only one thought to have been awarded to a Welsh Suffragette. The medal, along with Evans’ collection of letters and photographs, is of national importance – and will become part of Wales’ national collection.

The Centenary and Beyond - Telling Wales' Story

It has been ninety years since all women gained the right to vote, and the Centenary of the Representation of the People Act – which allowed some women to vote – has allowed us to revisit our suffrage collections.

photo of embroided banner with a red dragon and the words 'cardiff and district' and 'tros rhyddid'
Banner of the Cardiff Cardiff & District Women's Suffrage Society. Made by Rose Mabel Lewis, President of the Society

The national collection holds many items from the history of law-abiding suffragists, including their iconic banners. Until today, the story of militant suffragettes from Wales was missing from the picture – these items very rarely come up for auction and so this has been a very exciting acquisition. It means we can now tell a more inclusive story, which is both personal and national.

Making History at St Fagans

With new galleries due to open at St Fagans National Museum of History in October this year, and improved research facilities in the Weston Centre for Learning, it is a timely and significant addition to Wales’ national collections.

photo of HLF and ACNMW staff inspecting an object in a new gallery
The new galleries at St Fagans will be opening in October

The new galleries are part of a major redevelopment project – the biggest in the history of St Fagans - which has been realised thanks to substantial funding raised by players of the National Lottery, the Welsh Government and other supporters.

 

Sioned Hughes

Head of Public History
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Comments(1)

tracie renshaw
4 August 2018, 13:37
rare suffragette collection read fabulous and fascinating...I'm heading to the museum tomorrow. looking forward for haven't been for a few years. Your collection is calling me. brilliant and diolch

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