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INFORMATION WANTED ABOUT SYLVIA PANKHURST'S TOY FACTORY

Swedish artist Ingela Johansson has been awarded a scholarship by the Swedish Arts and Grants Committee to look into the production of toys at Sylvia Pankhurst's Toy Factory in Bow, East London, from 1914 until its relocation to Kings Cross, and finally its closure in 1934.

Miss Johansson would like to be contacted by people with information or articles, toys, photos and other memorabilia connected with Sylvia's Toy Factory. She is particularly interested in Sylvia's political struggle, feminism, community work and art practice, and wishes to explore Sylvia's perspectives on motherhood, childcare and working women through her studies in connection with the Toy Factory.

About the Toy Factory

In October 1914, with the financial assistance of Norah Veronica Lyle-Smyth, Sylvia Pankhurst set up the East London Toy Factory at 45 Norman Road, Bow. Amy Browning, Edith Downing, Hilda Jeffries and a Miss Acheson designed and helped to produce the toys. Edith Downing, a sculptor, modelled charming sets of dolls’ heads in wax, giving them lifelike features. The first batch of toys were sold to Selfridges and other shops. The artist Walter Crane, of the Arts & Crafts movement, designed some of the toys.

The toy manufacturing industries were big in Europe but the East London Federation of Suffragettes never intended to compete with their foreign counterparts. They hoped the public would appreciate their unique handicraft, recognising it in the tradition of the Arts & Crafts movement, rather than as a slavish imitation of German goods. Sylvia felt that offering a decent wage for skilled work of this kind would help raise the national standard of living as well as motivate English workers during the difficult times of the First World War.

The factory produced both soft toys and wooden toys. First came simple flat wooden animals, using wood from George Lansbury's yard in Bow. Later followed soft toys, including dolls with porcelain faces. Here are some examples of the factory's output:

Pigs, Birds (Robins and other), Dogs, Poodles, Elephants, Boy & Girl Scouts, Soldiers, Fairies, Squirrels, Little Girls and Boys, Crawling Boys, Pugilists, Country Men, Pierrots, Duck and Ducklings, British Baby Dolls, English Wax-Headed Dolls and Ethnic Dolls, Dolls’ Chippendale furniture.

Contact Ingela Johansson