WWI white feather letter sold at auction

A shaming letter and a white feather given to a British conscientious objector during WWI sold at Boningtons in Epping, UK this morning.

The lot achieved £78 ($96) against a valuation of £50 ($62).

Coward letter Boningtons

The letter and white feather would have been given to a man in civilian clothes

The white feather was a symbol of cowardice and was given out in public by women to men in civilian clothes.  

The white feather has been a symbol of cowardice since the 1800s. In 1914 it was used to try and embarrass men into joining up.

The letter accompanying it reads: “For a coward, why not take the King's shilling and defend your country.”

Gregory Tong, of Boningtons Auctioneers, told the Daily Mail: “Nowadays the feather would mean nothing but back then it was quite a slight.

“Clearly the person who presented this letter didn't like the recipient…

“Some men would have received so many white feathers they probably got a whole duck!

“Nowadays, the shaming would probably take place on Twitter. This letter with its white feather is a nice social bit of history and an unusual piece.”

The practice soon became so widespread (and the women involved so zealous) that the government had to issue badges for soldiers on leave and people involved in key industries at home.

Petty officer George Samson was famously given a feather in London in 1915, while on his way to receive his Victoria Cross.

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