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Sale of treasures belonging to Holloway Prison suffragettes moves auctioneers to tears

The items, discovered in a forgotten shoebox under the stairs, went for a whopping 16 times over the estimate

06 July, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Auctioneer Isabel Murtough fights back the tears. Credit: Hansons Auctioneers

AN AUCTIONEER was moved to tears while selling items belonging to three suffragette sisters who spent time in Holloway Prison this week.

The trove of treasures which include pins, meticulously preserved postcards and sashes were once owned by three sisters from Tufnell Park who were part of the Women’s Freedom League.

The league was a militant organisation that agitated for women’s voting rights in the early 20th century and many of its members found themselves in the Parkhurst Road prison.

Isabel Murtough, valuer for Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire, wept as the bids came flooding in on Monday morning.

When the bidding reached £9,000 she was overcome with emotion and said: “I told myself I wasn’t going to do this. Just think about what these women went through at that time. It just really resonates at this moment.”

Isabel Murtough with a picture of the Hodgsons. Credit: Hansons Auctioneers 

The items were discovered in a forgotten shoebox under the stairs and netted the owners £16,000 – a whopping 16 times over the estimate.

Ms Murtough was flanked by two colleagues during the bidding who wore replica suffragette sashes and Victorian garb.

A distant relative of the three sisters, who were named Edith, Florence, and Grace Hodgson, had brought the items to the auction house.

The relative, who wishes to remain anonymous but now lives outside London, said: “It was a complete surprise. We didn’t know the sisters were suffragettes and, until we took the items to be valued, I had no idea one of them had been imprisoned.

“It’s been amazing uncovering our family history in the last couple of weeks. One of my daughters has done hours of research to find out more about the sisters.”

The 1901 census shows Edith was working as a milliner, Florence worked in the post office while Grace was still a 13-year- old child.

They lived a stone’s throw outside of Islington, at 39 Laurier Road in Dartmouth Park.

Some of the discovered postcards. Credit: Hansons Auctioneers 

One of the items in the collection is a flag emblazoned with the words “Stone walls do not a prison make”, which was awarded to those who spent time in Holloway Prison.

The collection includes 101 postcards depicting the leaders of the suffragette movement and a cat wearing a suffrage flag while holding its paw over a sign saying “We demand the vote.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of women over the age of 30 winning the right to vote for the first time.

The winning bidder is a London-based dealer in suffragette memorabilia.

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