Toffee hammers are aptly named, as they are used to break up sheets of toffee candy for future sale and consumption. They quickly became novelty souvenirs included in gift packages of toffee, hence the name of the company on the handle. Interestingly, toffee hammers played a role in the women’s suffrage movement in the United Kingdom.
Following a series of hunger strikes where the women were force-fed and a deputation sent to Parliament that was met with violence and assault, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) wanted a new form of action that would communicate their message without human injury. The Union’s slogan was “Deeds, not words,” and they soon adopted a policy of smashing the windows in government and commercial buildings.
These small hammers, easily available, carried, and concealed, were used in the suffragettes’ window-smashing campaign. Wanting to “show displeasure in a political situation” without loss of life while also making the political statement that the government cared more about a pane of glass than women, window-smashing became official policy in 1911. Over 200 women were arrested during 1911 and 1912 following attacks on commercial and government buildings.
Militant actions by the WSPU were halted with the onset of World War I in 1914. After the War’s conclusion, partial voting rights were granted in 1918, with all women over 21 getting the right to vote ten years later. Who knew such a tiny hammer could have such a big impact in the course of history.