Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (13 January 2021)

Date of Auction: 13th January 2021

Sold for £10,000

Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000

Sold by Order of the Family for the Benefit of the Fawcett Society.
The Women’s Social and Political Union Medal awarded to Miss Nellie Godfrey, who was arrested and imprisoned for throwing a missile at Winston Churchill’s car as he attended an election rally in Bolton in December 1909

Women’s Social and Political Union Medal for Valour, 22mm, silver, the obverse inscribed ‘Hunger Strike’, the reverse named ‘Nellie Godfrey’, the suspension bar dated ‘December 7th. 1909’, complete with integral top ‘For Valour’ brooch bar, the lettering on the top brooch bar, suspension bar, and medal obverse enamelled in the colours of the W.S.P.U., in original case of issue, the inside silk interior lining of lid with gold blocked inscription, ‘Presented to Nellie Godfrey. by the Women’s Social & 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’, the lining now somewhat distressed and worn but name still legible, the medal nearly extremely fine £6,000-£8,000

Footnote

Nellie Godfrey joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1909, and was first arrested in the summer of 1909, appearing before Bow Street Magistrates on 9 July 1909. She was arrested for a second time on 7 December of that year, charged with throwing a missile at Winston Churchill’s motor car, as he travelled to an election rally in Bolton in the run-up to the January 1910 General Election. At the time Churchill, the Member of Parliament for Dundee, was President of the Board of Trade, and was undertaking a campaign tour of Lancashire. Suspecting trouble ahead of his address, the police had erected strong barricades along the route of his journey, but Miss Godfrey managed to break through the timber barriers and threw a piece of iron at his car. The iron was wrapped in paper bearing the message ‘Thrown by a woman of England as a protest against the Government’s treatment of political prisoners.’ (Votes for Women, 9 December 1909 refers)

Appearing at Bolton Magistrates Court the following day, Miss Godfrey pleaded guilty, and was fined 40 shillings. Refusing to pay, she was sentenced to seven days’ imprisonment. Released from Manchester Prison on medical grounds (most likely under the ‘cat and mouse’ system, whereby those political prisoners who embarked upon a hunger strike were released as soon as their condition started to deteriorate, in order that they should not become a political martyr), she returned to London, and two years later appeared again before Bow Street Magistrates on 27 November 1911.

Sold with a portrait photographic image of the recipient wearing her medal, and various photographic images of the recipient in later life.