The Womens Social and Political Union Medal awarded to Miss Nellie Godfrey, who was arrested and imprisoned for throwing a missile at Winston Churchills car as he attended an election rally in Bolton in December 1909 will be offered by Dix Noonan Webb in their live / online auction of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 on their website www.dnw.co.uk
. It is expected to fetch £6,000-8,000, and the proceeds are being donated to the Fawcett Society.
The silver medal is inscribed Hunger Strike, the reverse named Nellie Godfrey, the suspension bar dated December 7th. 1909 complete with integral top For Valour brooch bar, enamelled in the colours of the W.S.P.U., and in its original case of issue, the inside silk interior lining of lid with gold blocked inscription, Presented to Nellie Godfrey by the Womens 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 is distressed and worn but name still legible.
Nellie Godfrey joined the Womens 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 Churchills 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 Governments 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.
Christopher Mellor-Hill, Head of Client Liaison (Associate Director) of Dix, Noonan, Webb, commented: We are very pleased to be offering her Suffragette medal which reflect's the courage shown by Nellie Godfrey in her endeavour to support the campaign for womens right to vote. Not a lot is known about her - she lived in a flat in Muswell Hill, North London next door to Sandra Lamberti (nee Andres) who had arrived here from Spain with her Gilbraltarian mother and Spanish father who was political refugee from Franco Spain. Miss Godfrey befriended the family and helped teach Sandra to speak perfect English and became her adoptive grandmother. The medal was left to Sandra and her family when Nellie passed away in the late 1950s. Sandra passed away a few years ago hence the family are selling it to aid the Fawcett Society a campaign for gender equality and womens rights at work, at home and in public life to acknowledge Nellies life & values.
While Felicia Willow, Fawcett Society Chief Exec, said: "The Fawcett Society is honoured to be receiving the funds raised by the sale of Nellie Godfrey's suffragette medal. These precious items remind us of the dedication and bravery of the many women who fought for the vote, and the significant challenges they overcame along the way. We are deeply grateful for this generous donation and hope Nellie would be proud of our work to continue fighting for equality and women's rights."