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Suffragette Muffineer - History & Context

Muffineer - Suffragette, Saunders & Shepherd, Silver, 1908

Image: Muffineer - Suffragette, Saunders & Shepherd, Silver, 1908

Source: Museum Victoria

Cornelius Desormeaux Saunders and James Francis-Hollings-Frank-Shepherd of London manufactured this suffragette muffineer in 1908; it was registered between 28 March and 7 April in Chester, England. (Crawford 1999, p. 110) As most company records are lost, the exact number of suffragette muffineers manufactured by Saunders and Shepherd (now known as The Saunders Shepherd Group) is untraceable. The existence of six similar muffineers has been confirmed by British researcher Irene Cockcroft. (Cockcroft, 20 June 2008) As Saunders and Shepherd were commercial manufacturers at least one hundred, possibly up to one thousand, muffineers could have been made in order to ensure the commercial viability of the object. (Cockcroft, 9 July 2008)

The placard worn by the suffragette was printed in black or red. Original banners and posters advertising the WSPU 'Votes for Women' movement were printed in red on white, similar to the placards of the Museum's muffineer. In 1908 green, white and purple were adopted as the official colours of the WSPU movement (Crawford 1999, p. 136-7). The colour of the placard print could reference the WSPU colours, or it could be an aide memoir for the owner, to remind them what spice their muffineer contained.

The most likely designer of the muffineer was Mr Arthur Whelpdale, manager and director of Saunders, Shepherd and Co. Whelpdale favoured the production of limited edition novelties reflecting social icons (Cockcroft, 20 June 2008). Muffineers would have been manufactured in batches of 20 to 50 at a time by a team of six to eight craftsmen (Cockcroft, 8 June 2008).

Saunders and Shepherd exported items throughout the Commonwealth, and in 1897 established an office at 279 George St, Sydney (Coupland, 15 March 2008). The company's products were retailed throughout Melbourne and Sydney, at stores like Hardy's (Cockcroft, 8 June 2008).

The handwritten addition to the placard text indicates it was in Britain at the outbreak of the First World War, and was therefore purchased in the UK.

The 2003 exhibition at the Women's Library in London Art for Votes' Sake: Visual Culture and the Women's Suffrage Campaign, and the 2005 exhibition New Dawn Women at the Watts Gallery, London both exhibited muffineers' identical to the example in Museum Victoria's collection.

References:
Cockroft, Irene. 2008. 'Transcript of Irene Cockroft's phone interview with Mr. Tony Shepherd', email correspondence with Harriet Boothman, 8 June.
Cockroft, Irene. 2008. Email correspondence with Harriet Boothman, 20 June.
Cockroft, Irene 2008. Email correspondence with Harriet Boothman, 26 June.
Cockroft, Irene. 2008. Email correspondence with Harriet Boothman, 9 July.
Coupland, John. 2008. 'Re: Interest in company records for the purpose of historical research', email correspondence with Harriet Boothman, 15 March.
Coupland, John. 2008. 'Questions about Company History', email correspondence with Harriet Boothman, 15 July.
Crawford, Elizabeth. 1999. Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. London: Routledge.

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