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January 5, 2018

Spy Photographs of Militant Suffragettes, 1913

In 1912, Scotland Yard detectives bought their first camera, to covertly photograph suffragettes. The pictures were compiled into ID sheets for officers on the ground.

It was passed up the chain, scrutinised, reviewed and finally rubber-stamped in Whitehall itself. Scotland Yard duly became the proud owner of a Ross Telecentric camera lens. And at a cost to the taxpayer of £7, 6s and 11d, secret police photographic surveillance (in the shape of an 11-inch long lens) was born.

Within weeks, the police were using it against what the government then regarded as the biggest threat to the British Empire: the suffragettes.

Documents uncovered at the National Archives reveal that the votes-for-women movement probably became the first "terrorist" organisation subjected to secret surveillance photography in the UK, if not the world.

These photos uncovered by the National Archives show how the police spied on the suffragettes. These covert images - perhaps the UK's first spy pictures - have gone on display to mark the centenary of the votes-for-women movement.

Margarett Scott

Olive Leared

Margaret McFarlane

Mary Wyan (Mary Ellen Taylor)

Annie Bell

Jane Short

Gertrude Mary Ansell

Maud Brindley

Verity Oates

According to BBC, when Evelyn Manesta, one of the Manchester suffragettes refused to pose for a picture, a guard was brought in to restrain her in front of the camera.

But when the photograph of Evelyn Manesta appeared, the arm had been removed. The photographer had acted on official instructions to doctor the photograph so that it would be less controversial.

Mary Raleigh Richardson

May Dennis

Kitty Marion (Katherina Maria Schafer)

Lillian Forrester

Miss Johansen

Clara Giveen

Jennie Baines

Miriam Pratt

(Photos © National Portrait Gallery, London; via BBC)


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