The WSPU awarded a range of military-style campaign medals to raise morale and encourage continued loyalty and commitment to the cause. The Hunger Strike Medals were first presented by leadership of the WSPU at a ceremony in early August 1909 to women who had gone on hunger strike while serving a prison sentence at Holloway Prison for some act of militancy connected with the campaign for women's suffrage such as smashing windows. Later the medals would be presented at a breakfast reception on a woman's release from prison.
The round and hallmarked silver medals hang on a length of ribbon in the purple, white and green colours of the WSPU from a silver pin bar engraved ‘FOR VALOUR’, in imitation of the inscription found on the Victoria Cross. The obverse of the medal is inscribed 'HUNGER STRIKE', while on the reverse is engraved the recipient's name. The silver bars on the medal were awarded for periods of hunger strike and are engraved on the reverse with the date that the recipient was arrested leading to a hunger strike. The enamelled purple, white and green bars for force-feeding are similarly engraved on the reverse; the sculptor Edith Downing’s medal bar is engraved with ‘Fed by Force 1/3/12’ - the date that she was imprisoned which subsequently lead to her hunger strike and forcible feeding. About 100 medals were awarded and could be issued with more than one bar representing multiple hunger strikes or force-feeding.
Medal in its presentation case with silver bar for a hunger strike and enamel bar for force-feeding awarded by the WSPU to Mabel Capper
Each Hunger Strike Medal was presented in a purple box with a green velvet lining. A piece of white silk was fitted inside the lid which was printed in gold with the dedication: ‘Presented to [name] by the Women’s Social and 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 medals were made by Toye & Co. and their manufacture cost the WSPU £1.00 each.
A medal found in a drawer awarded to suffragette Elsie Wolff Van Sandau who was arrested for smashing a window in Covent Garden on 4 March 1912 and who went on hunger strike in prison was sold at auction in 2019 for £12,500. A medal belonging to suffragette Selina Martin, auctioned in Nottingham in 2019, expected to fetch £15,000 was bought by the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia for £27,000.