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March 5, 2022

Pioneering Photos of Suffragettes by Christina Broom

Widely considered to be the UK’s first female press photographer, Christina Broom (1862–1939) began her photographic career in 1903 at the age of 40.

Christina Broom took some of the best photographs of the brave women who campaigned for the vote in London in the years up to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. When Christina worked at ‘Women’s Sunday’ in 1908 she was 46 years old and living at 38 Burnfoot Avenue in Fulham with her husband Albert Edward Broom and their only child, 18-year-old Winifred Margaret, known as Winnie. Due to a sporting injury in 1903, Albert Broom was unable to work, and Christina converted an interest into photography into a business. She borrowed a box camera and taught herself to be a commercial photographer, and came to earn a good living at this happy moment, now known as the “golden age of the postcard.”

In 1908, hundreds of women were frequently and noisily taking to the streets of the capital, claiming public spaces everywhere to demand the vote. Often within easy traveling distance of the Brooms, the Suffragettes and suffragists were irresistible and photogenic subjects. At the ‘Women’s Sunday’ meeting in Hyde Park, Christina Broom, who was less than five feet tall, managed to maneuver a tripod and a heavy half-plate box camera through the packed Hyde Park into a good position within two or three feet of platform 6 – one of 20 – and captured the earnest camaraderie of the speakers and their supporters.

It is not clear why Broom stopped photographing the women’s suffrage movement in the summer of 1913. Perhaps her other work became more popular and made more money. Perhaps the escalating militancy of the WPSU was the reason for the Brooms to end this particular line of work. Between the summers of 1913 and 1914 newspapers rand stories of broken windows, arson attacks on empty houses and churches, railways stations and sporting facilities, and axe attacks on works of art and museum displays. The days of beautifully dressed, photogenic women processing peacefully through the streets of London carrying artistic banners – Broom’s staple – were over.

Take a look back at the Suffragettes from across Britain through these pictures taken by Christina Broom:

Women’s Social and Political Union Exhibition stand, probably at Claxton Hall during the Women’s Parliament, February 1908

Suffragettes in Hyde Park on Women’s Sunday, June 1908

Suffragette Charlotte (Charlie) Marsh at Hyde Park rally, 1908

Nurses and midwives from the Pageant of Women’s Trades and Professions marching to the Albert Hall, April 1909

Mounted suffragettes taking part in a procession to promote the Women’s Exhibition, May 1909

Charlotte Despard, president of the Women’s Freedom League, at the Green, White, & Gold Fair organized by the Women’s Freedom League, 1909

Christabel Pankhurst, co-founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), photographed inside the Women’s Exhibition, held at the Princes’ Skating Rink, Knightsbridge, May 1909

A suffragette in historic costume at the Green, White, & Gold Fair organized by the Women’s Freedom League, 1909

Suffragettes in a procession to promote the Women's Exhibition, 1909

Young suffragettes advertising the Women’s Exhibition, May 1909

The Sweets Stall at the Women’s Exhibition, Prince’s Skating Rink, May 1909

The Drum & Fife Band performing in a procession to promote the Women’s Exhibition, May 1909

The Catalogue and Enquiries stall at the Women’s Exhibition, Prince’s Skating Rink, Knightsbridge, May 1909

The reconstructed prison-cell exhibit at the Women’s Exhibition, Prince’s Skating Rink, Knightsbridge, May 1909

The Suffragette Barbara Ayrton dressed as a fisher girl to promote the Women’s Exhibition, May 1909

The Putney and Fulham Women’s Social and Political Union branch shop and office, 1910

Suffragette March in Hyde Park, July 1910

Portrait of Christina Broom taken by her daughter Winifred Broom, c. 1910

(via Museum of London)




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