I am Curious (Heliotrope)

New Edge Hill merchandise has arrived! Many times I’ve been buttonholed in corridors by people asking for ties, scarves, sweatshirts and the like. From now on I’ll be able to direct people to a website – result!

Much of the new stuff uses the original college colours, heliotrope, green and yellow. Of these, heliotrope is the least familiar, a kind of violet or purple (also a type of sunseeking plant.) It is sometimes remarked that these are ‘suffragette colours’. It’s a nice idea – that the leaders of a women’s college would (subversively?) reflect women’s suffrage in their symbolism. However (raining on parade alert) ……………………………………..

  • there were various women’s suffrage colour schemes, including purple, green and white and purple, gold and white but not as far as I can see purple, green and gold/yellow. (Historians please jump in and prove me wrong.)
  • Miss Hale, Principal 1890-1920, is on record as disapproving ‘of feminism in general and the suffragettes in particular’ (Edge Hill University College: A History 1885-1997, Fiona Montgomery) and is therefore unlikely to have knowingly authorised colours with this intended meaning.

Having said that, there was apparently a lively interest in first-wave feminist issues among staff and students so some reflection of suffragette symbolism (in which case Edge Hill adopted the green for hope and purple for dignity, ignored the white for purity, instead using gold which could conceivably have been borrowed from American suffrage) just might have been deployed under Miss Hale’s radar.

Of course, we can choose retrospectively to read the College colours in this or any other way, without necessarily appealing to historical fact or irrecoverable intentions. The suffragette reading clearly strikes a chord now, as a piece of heritage we desire to invent – is that enough?

Pop fact: the Dean of Learning and Teaching bought the first of the new scarves. Should he chain himself to any railings (we have plenty) some point or other may be proved.