Museum Collection: Banner Collection

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 TWL.banner
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      53 banners (plus c.48 banners identified in the archives)

Scope and Content

As at Jan 2009, The Women's Library held approximately 53 early 20th century banners in the Museum Collection with c.48 additional banners identified in the archives. The earliest banners result from suffrage activities and were created for the suffrage processions and demonstrations.

The first banner used by the suffrage movement was in 1905 (although this does not appear to have survived). The earliest banners held by the Library were created for National Union of Women's Suffrage Society and used in the Procession of Great Women, 1908. It was reported at the time that the Jun 1908 procession used over 800 banners, so only a proportion have survived.

Some of the banners are simple text-based banners, however many were professionally designed by members of suffrage organisations such as the Artist's Suffrage League. The suffragettes exhibited some of the banners in 1908 in Glasgow and Birmingham. The banners were also prominently displayed in the Queen's Hall victory celebration on 13 March 1918.

The collection also includes banners representing two early 20th century women's trade unions: the National Association of Women Civil Servants and the National Union of Women Teachers.

The Women's Library is keen to collect campaigning banners, particularly any that survive from the latter part of the 20th century. Please contact the curator for more details.

There are 32 additional banners in 5GFS Girls' Friendly Society archive.

Banners are also known to survive in the following uncatalogued archives: 5CWM(x6), 5ROW (x2), 5WPF, 5WWP(x1), 6MOW (x3), 6SFP (x1), 6WIE (x1), and 8UNB. [These are currently unavailable to researchers].

Administrative / Biographical History

A corporate history of The Women' Library, and of many of the creators of badges held in this collection, is available on The Women's Library archive and museum catalogue.

Access Information

Due to their size and fragility banners can be consulted by an appointment with the curator only. Readers are encouraged to use the surrogate images provided with the online catalogue instead.

Acquisition Information

Various, though many were created by the Artist's Suffrage League and the London Society for Women's Suffrage and were probably deposited through the Fawcett Society.

Other Finding Aids

The Women's Library online catalogue

Alternative Form Available

Images of many of these banners can be seen attached to The Women's Library online catalogue. The Women's Library uses Mary Evans Picture Library (MEPL) to provide images from its collections, see

For a copy of the attached image please contact MEPL, quoting the MEPL image reference 10048872 [original held at The Women's Library ref 2ASL/11/55/4]. It shows women with banners representing characters including L-R Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth, Lucy Stone and Jenny Lind [the original banners survive in The Women's Library Banner Collection].

Related Material

The Women's Library Collections also holds correspondence, press cuttings, and photographs that relate to the banners and the events they were created for. In particular The Artist's Suffrage League archive holds an album of banner designs by Mary Lowndes (ref 2ASL/11).

Additional banners created by organisations may be found in individual archives, such as the Girls' Friendly Society (5GFS) that has 24 banners surviving dated 1875-1930.

A search using the 'object name' field and the word 'banner' will bring up all catalogued banners in the collection.


The Wimbledon Society Museum of Local History holds a Women's Social & Political Union Banner designed in 1908 and donated by Mrs Lamartine Yates.

Historical Note: In 1980-1981 a decision was made to disperse some of the Fawcett Society's banners:

33 banners were selected by the Museum of London (

* Housing

* Sarah Siddons

* Ilford WSPU

* NUWSS Not Militant

* Marie Curie - Radium

* Victoria, Queen and Mother

* WFL Hampstead Branch

* British Freedom

* London

* Elizabeth Garrett

* Women's Gas Federation



* Free Churches

* Sauce for the Goose

* Ask With Courage

* Charlotte Despard

* Education

* Elizabeth Fry

* The Office

* United Suffragists

* Physical Education

* WFL Dare to be Free (small)

* Artists' Suffrage

* Homemakers

* Enfield

* Golders Green

* No Vote No Tax

* Graduates of London University

* Hampstead Church League

* George Eliot

* St Teresa

5 banners of regional interest were transferred to:

* Birmingham City Museum 'The West Midlands Federation';

* The National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in Edinburgh 'Edinburgh', 'Dunbar', and 'Burgh Partick';

* Worthing Museum 'Surrey, Sussex and Hants';

18 banners were selected by the Fawcett Library (now the Women's Library).

Dora Meeson Coates, Commonwealth of Australia designed a Women's Suffrage Banner in 1908 (possibly linked to the illustrious women march of that year). Carried by the Australian Contingent in the Women’s Suffrage Coronation Procession, London, 1911. The banner with the text 'Commonwealth Australia, Trust the Women as I have done' shows 2 women, [one Britannia, one Australia?]. It was purchased by the Australian Bicentennial Authority 1988 from the Fawcett Society for £10,000 (£700 had been spent by the Fawcett on conservation). It was presented as a Bicentennial gift to the women of Australia and accepted on their behalf by Senator Margaret Reynolds in her capacity as the then Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. Custodianship formally transferred to the Parliament House Gift Collection on 12 June 2002. It was hung in Commonwealth Parliament House, Canberra.


The People's Museum in Manchester holds the largest collection of banners in the world (c.360) - mainly from the trade union movement. They also hold the UK Banner Survey - details of which UK institutions hold banners (as at Oct 2008 details were available at )


* Lowndes, Mary ‘Banners & Banner-making’, Englishwoman, Sep 1909, . reproduced in Women’s Banners, p. 4, pamphlet, Women’s Library, London.* Tickner, Lisa. The Spectacle of Women. Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign 1907-14, London, Chatto & Windus, 1987.* Scott, Myra 'How Australia led the way: Dora Meeson Coates and British Suffrage' for the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women 2003 [On the Australian suffrage banner]