Suffragette surveillance photos from 1912

Scotland Yard's first surveillance camera, bought in 1912, was used to spy on "increasingly militant suffragettes" who demanded votes for women, regarded as terrorists in their day.

The covert photographs are at the heart of an exhibition marking the centenary of the founding of the Women's Social and Political Union, which invented modern direct action and ultimately changed the face of the UK...

One of the women on the list, Kitty Marion, went on to become one of the most celebrated of the suffragettes as she endured more than 200 force-feedings in prison while on hunger strike.

"On the one hand, the state considered them dangerous terrorists, but on the other it simply did not know what to do with them," says Ms Tulloch.

Spy pictures of suffragettes revealed (BBC) (via How to Be a Retronaut)

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  1. Jeepers, 1912? Women had already had the vote for 20 years in New Zealand by that point. You’d think that what’s good in one part of the commonwealth should fly elsewhere, but you’d be wrong.

    The whole thing is bloody outrageous, isn’t it? Same way we’ll feel about gay marriage and who knows how many other things a century from now.

    1. Sadly, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

      I’ll bet the machine will have recycled a new cause to rally against by the time a century goes by.

      1. I’ll bet the machine will have recycled a new cause to rally against by the time a century goes by.

        Maybe, but I still wouldn’t want to live in the past. I’m guessing it would suck more.

        1. Well, yeah. Neither Prilosec nor Advair had been invented yet.

          Joking aside, I truly think that back then I’d be dead from a stress-related asthma attack or an ulcer if I had to endure the punishment these women shouldered in their fight for civil rights.

    2. The whole thing is bloody outrageous, isn’t it? Same way we’ll feel about gay marriage and who knows how many other things a century from now.

      Many of us already do. And just as there are a handful of people left who believe half their fellow citizens should be disenfranchised, there will be holdouts who can’t stand not dictating the relationships of others.

  2. The 3rd from the left on top has a great “don’t give a fuck” attitude with her hair and kick ass jacket.

  3. Saying that they were “regarded as terrorists in their day” seems unfairly dismissive. The more militant ones *were* terrorists, committed arson and bombed churches (including Westminster Abbey).

  4. It’s not good per se, but it is perversely reassuring to know that the term terrorism was being bandied about for things that clearly weren’t even a hundred years ago.

    1. It’s not good per se, but it is perversely reassuring to know that the term terrorism was being bandied about for things that clearly weren’t even a hundred years ago.

      Tell me about it. Burn a few churches and send a few mail bombs and suddenly the government thinks you’re a terrorist!

      It’s outrageous.

          1. Right, because there has never been any violent insurgency due to race in the US or in India.

          2. Sometimes you need MLK, sometimes you need Malcolm X. African Americans, however, were second-class citizens with a constitutional right to vote since 1870. Women had no such power. They were de facto property. Ending that practice toward AAs took a civil war in the the US followed by decades of fighting against Jim Crow in the courts and with civil disobedience.

            Would you not fight for your vote if someone took it from you?

          3. American Indians did not have vote for decades after 1870, even after having signed up to serve in US military. Don’t know what I would have done in suffragette era, it took courage to endure prison as they did. I can’t imagine not having a vote! Many women managed to have a lot of political influence without the vote if they were in a position to do that, word in ear at social fucntions rather than vote in ballot box. For many women that was not a possibility either. Can’t credit them being described as ‘terrorists’! I think my preference would have been for peaceful persuasion rather than outright militancy. Extraordinary to think even in 2011, women are being treated as criminals for driving in Saudi Arabia.

      1. I suppose that excuses Scotland Yard for paying attention to some of them, and condemns the government for needing them to go to such lengths before doing the right thing? But given how we spy on possible terrorists now, I wonder what portion of these women were actually any concern.

      2. From your link: “A new suffrage bill was introduced in 1910, but growing impatient, the WSPU launched a heightened campaign of protest in 1912 on the basis of targeting property and avoiding violence against any person.”

        Causing property damage isn’t the same thing as terrorizing people, rather, it’s a means of making oppressive policies too expensive to maintain. Given that the distribution of power (and force) in this case was clearly in the state’s favor, I would say that these women would have been entirely justified in targeting policymakers. The fact that they did not, excepting a few cases, shows an impressive degree of restraint and courage.

  5. As much as we love to tout new technologies as a liberating and often equalizing force, this is a sober reminder of how it can be a tool to keep us down.
    -@jscottgrand

  6. That must have been an slightly nerve-wracking procurement request…

    “Sir, with respect, in will require the latest in cover photo-graphic device to properly investigate a dangerous group of women of ill repute, deleterious to the common order.”

    “Officer, what have I told you about those filthy habits of yours?”

    “No, sir, not those women sir, the terrorist ones.”

    “Ah, very well. Did you have a number in mind or should I open an expense account?”

  7. Top row – far left – Putin’s mom.

    It is sad that the silly monkeys who continually put themselves in charge of the human race so consistently make the same mistakes and commit the same crimes in their desperate attempts to cling to power. Every time it becomes a new battle. Silly monkeys.

    Say goodnight, Mrs. Putin.

  8. This photo is on view at the Walker Art Center right now in Minneapolis, as part of the “Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870” exhibit

  9. Thanks to Disney I’m now imagining that those photos were taken shortly after a family-friendly musical number led by Winifred Banks (as portrayed by Glynis Johns).

  10. Sadly, none of them could afford the ticket, back from Suffragette city. All right.

  11. These women “demanded votes for women”? All women? Because I know for a fact all women (I’m talking about non-white women) were not given the vote at the same time. Nice to see we continue to be written out of history after all these years.

  12. This made my day.

    1. Print out.
    2. Cover in clear contact paper.
    3. Tack up on kitchen cabinet door between Airwolf flightsuit patch and glow in the dark rubber octopus.
    4. Smile.

  13. Thank God, we had free thinking people in our government wise enough to keep track of these monsters. Just imagine how safe they can make us with current technology.

  14. Anon: I don’t know where you’re getting your information but women over 30 were granted the vote in the UK in 1918 and this was extended to all adult women on the same terms as men by the Representation of the People Act in 1928. There was no colour bar.

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