University of Sussex
Streeter, Penelope. Volume 1.pdf (6.18 MB)

Symbolic jewels: the military sweetheart brooch in wartime Britain

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posted on 2023-06-06, 09:41 authored by Penelope Streeter
This thesis examines the role of military badge brooches, miniature replicas of regimental insignia worn by women from the 1880s to the present day. Often given to mark personal relationships, they became known generically as ‘sweetheart brooches’ but in fact communicated much more than this, articulating societal solidarity, status, concepts of patriotism and frequently commemoration. Their tangible presence in the quotidian lives of women across all strata of society maintained links between personnel on the front line and those on the home front but no academic investigation has been conducted into them and they are conspicuously absent from studies of jewellery, dress or material culture. Starting with the brooches themselves and synthesising case studies, archival material and primary documentation, the thesis aims to address this gap in scholarship. Five chapters consider their significance to wartime society. They denoted military history, became a vital part of the jewellery trade and were promoted as propaganda. For the women who wore them they might be fashion items, wedding jewellery, talismanic charms, status symbols or memory objects. The brooches are considered in conjunction with images as commemorations of events and people and situated within the history of the earlier sentimental jewels from which they evolved. Regimental sweetheart brooches were ubiquitous across all walks of society, forming part of the pervasive visual wartime background. The study shifts the emphasis of conflict-related art from male uniforms and artefacts towards the concerns of women on the home front by considering these evocative but hitherto unexplored jewels through the approaches of material culture, commercial interests, museums and the oral and written testimonies of those who gave and wore them, demonstrating that they should be integrated into the historiography of jewellery and conflict artworks.


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University of Sussex

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