The Collector’s Minute: Royal Doulton Women’s Suffrage Ink Wells

These two Royal Doulton pieces, titled “Virago & Baby,” were designedby Leslie Harradine, circa 1909.

Every movement in history has its highs and lows captured in the decorative arts of the time, either as heroic statuary and dramatic portraiture to support the cause, or as comic pieces meant

to heap ridicule on a cause to diminish it in the eyes of the public.

An example of the latter is reflected in these two pieces pegged to one of the most contentious issues of democracy in modern times: Women’s Suffrage. Establishing women’s right to vote was very an extremely polarizing issue that pitted the sexes against one another. Women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom as a national movement began in 1872, the charge for women led by the Woman’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

The issue hit a peak when WSPU attempted to storm the House of Commons and the burning of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s country home in 1908. These two pieces, titled “Virago & Baby,” were made shortly after these events, the design for these stoneware pieces were registered by Royal Doulton, circa 1909. The pieces are actually inkwells and very collectible. The “Baby” hinges at the top, while the “Virago,” with her “Votes for Women” apron, hinges in the middle.

They were created by Leslie Harradine, one of Doulton’s best known designers, who joined Doulton’s Lambeth Studios in 1902 as an apprentice modeler, but eventually resigned from his position in late 1912 to work on a freelance basis for the next 40 years. From the 1920s until the 1950s, virtually all the new figures developed were the creations from the mind of Leslie Harradine.

The Virago & Baby inkwells are very early designs by Harradine and are quite rare, and are seldom available for sale or at auction. In auction today, they would bring between $1,000-$1,500 each.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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