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The Primrose League

The Primrose League was founded in 1883 to commemorate the life and work of the Conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, who had died in 1881. Unusually for the times, men and women were equally prominent and 'Primrose Dames' took a very active role in canvassing and political organisation long before they themselves could vote.

The League grew phenomenally and had some two million members at its height in the 1920s with local branches (called 'Habitations') in every part of the UK and throughout the British Empire. It was then common to see large numbers of people wearing a primrose buttonhole on 19th April each year to celebrate "Primrose Day", the anniversary of Disraeli's death. The League had many distinctive features - one of which was that members were awarded for their zeal with a hierarchy of awards and badges.

I joined the League in the late 1980s when it was a mere shadow of its former-self and was saddened when, in December 2004, a majority of members voted to wind-it up. Since then I have been gradually collecting materials relating to the League and thus learning more about an organisation that had a huge impact on British politics but is hardly known nowadays.

My intention is, in due course, to deposit the collection with the Bodleian Library (where some of the League's records are already held) so that those interested in the League and the development of political organisation will be able to access a comprehensive record of this fascinating organisation.

Q If anyone has any Primrose League printed or other material that I might obtain copies of or knows where I might acquire items for the collection, I'd be delighted to hear from you.

Martyn Punyer (martyn[at]ravenshawhouse.com)


Ephemera - minor transient documents of every day life