Radical Objects

Radical Objects: Asylum Workers’ Badge

This is the badge of the National Asylum Workers Union which was founded in 1910, largely as a result of dissatisfaction with a new national pension scheme introduced for mental health workers the previous year.

The badge draws heavily on previous trade union iconography: the clasped hands of unity; the scales of justice; the lath bundle (a symbol of strength through unity); the wheatsheaf (a symbol of abundance); and the all seeing eye (a symbol of wisdom). The words cited are part of the slogan adopted by the union in 1910: “All for one and one for all: thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”.

The badge was a centre of a dispute at Bodmin Asylum in October 1918 when nurses were ordered to remove their union badges, they refused and five nurses were sacked. 34 more then walked out in solidarity and were also sacked until a total of 50 nurses were out. Within a week the male staff at the asylum also walked out in support. The management were forced to reinstate the sacked nurses and recognise the right of staff to wear the NAWU badge.

In 1930 the NAWU became the Mental Hospital and Institutional Workers Union.

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