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  EXTREMELY RARE SUFFRAGETTE ARMBAND, MADE IN BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA FOR CARRIE CHAPMAN CATT'S WOMAN SUFFRAGE PARTY (WSP) OF NEW YORK CITY, CA 1912-1919

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 10.75" x 22.5"
Flag Size (H x L): 3.75" x 15.5"
Description....:
This rare red and white armband, with "WSP" lettering and an 8-pointed star, appliqu├ęd over a white cross and then a red shield, was made in Berkeley, California for the Woman Suffrage Party. Founded in 1909 as the "Woman's Party," and changing its name soon thereafter, the WSP was a New York organization formed by Carrie Chapman Catt at something called the "Convention of Disfranchised Women." Held at Carnegie Hall, the event, sponsored by Catt's Interurban Suffrage Council, brought together a host of local suffrage groups, organizing them into a new political machine.

The following record of the initial meeting of the WSP was recorded in The News-Palladium under the heading: "Suffragists Party a Reality, Born at First Political Convention of Disfranchised":

New York, Oct. 30. [1909]--The woman's party is no longer a theory but a reality, and Mrs. Carrie Chapman-Catt is its chairman. It was born at the first political convention of disfranchised women last night in Carnegie Hall, with all the prestige that could be imparted by the brains, wealth, and beauty of the movement to obtain the ballot for women.

The whole tone of the rally, under the auspices of the Interurban Suffrage Council, was kept within conservative limits as a tacit protest against the Pankhurst meeting and the militant methods involved. It is understood that so fixed was the determination of Mrs. Clarence Mackay, chairwoman of the platform committee, to keep the demands reasonable and dignified that she refused to permit the insertion of two planks which verged on sensationalism or suggested partisanship.

It was on this score that the "white slave" question was untouched and that the platform, which Mrs. Mackay read, asked such action as concerns women's position as a civic and national factor.

With the help of Mary Garrett Hay, Catt organized the WSP like the Democratic Party, with representatives from each assembly district. Organizers in many other states and cities soon followed, organizing on a local level so that every election district was covered. 804 delegates were sent to the original meeting, and by 1915, when the suffrage issue came to a vote for the first time in New York State, WSP membership was 100,000 strong. In that year alone there were 5,225 outdoor meetings, 28 parades, and 13 concerts. While the vote was lost, it passed just two years later, in 1917, and New York became the first eastern state to give women the right to vote.

Made of felt and machine-stitched, the armband was produced by the Wheeler Manufacturing Company and bears an embroidered label on the reverse. While I have not researched the firm yet in great depth, it is listed in the 1924 Directory of California Manufacturers, published by the California Development Association of the State Chamber of Commerce (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento), p. 452. An entry with an index of businesses lists them as a supplier of "Felt novelties, flags and banners."

I have yet to find any reference to the WSP's use of the red star, white cross, and red shield. The colors are most unusual for the Suffrage movement, which were typically either deep yellow or a combination of green and violet, the latter reflecting the colors used in Britain, but sometimes employed in the States.

Along the bottom of the armband, stamped in black and flanking the central device, are the word "Albany" followed by "2068." This is probably the designated district for the state capitol. The structure of the organization was highly organized, comprised of more than 2,000 independent districts, each with its own leader.

Mounting: The textile was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and related textiles and have framed thousands of examples.

The armband has been hand-stitched to its background, which is 100% cotton twill, black in color, that has been washed and treated for color fastness. The two-part frame consists of a molding with a step-down profile, that is very dark brown in color, nearly black, with red undertones and highlights, to which a flat, gold molding was added as a liner. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass.
Collector Level: Advanced Collectors and the Person with Everything
Flag Type: Sewn flag
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1912
Latest Date of Origin: 1919
State/Affiliation: New York
War Association:
Price: SOLD
 

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