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Suffragette City
July 18, 2011 9:33 AM   Subscribe

‘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.’
posted by The Whelk (50 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're rather stupid.
posted by norm at 9:41 AM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, nearly one hundred years of spotter cards.
posted by knapah at 9:41 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that it was possible to covertly photograph anything in 1912. Looking at that photo of Evelyn Manesta, maybe it wasn't.
posted by theodolite at 9:42 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't you lean on me man because you can't afford a ticket.

There's a number of these on display as part of the "Exposed" exhibit created by SF-MOMA and the Tate, currently at the Walker Art Center. They fit in well with paparazzi shots, news footage, spy camera shots, and surveillance footage. I did my own little project where I snapped photos of every surveillance camera I saw on my walk to and from work everyday. After a while, I got exhausted from the sheer number of cameras I saw. We really are caught on camera all the time.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:42 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think they weren't covertly photographed, but photographed upon their arrests for protesting, and then prints were distributed to agents so they could more easily identify the people they were spying on.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:48 AM on July 18, 2011


Wikipedia: "1912 was a turning point for the Suffragettes in the UK as they turned to using more militant tactics such as chaining themselves to railings, setting fire to mailbox contents, smashing windows and occasionally detonating bombs."

"Emily Wilding Davison (11 October 1872 – 8 June 1913) was a militant women's suffrage activist who, on 4 June 1913, after a series of actions that were either self-destructive or violent, stepped in front of the horse of King George V at the Epsom Derby, sustaining injuries that resulted in her death four days later."

"At 6 a.m. on 18 February [1913], a bomb set by Emily Wilding Davison and accomplices wrecked five rooms of a partly-completed house that Lloyd George was having built near Walton Heath, Surrey."
posted by iviken at 9:53 AM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's some interesting cross-dressing going on a few shots and Verity Oates is just a great name.
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 AM on July 18, 2011


Some of the photographs were definitely taken on arrest (Evelyn Manesta), but Kitty Marion (13) looks like they clipped the head shot from a posed portrait. The last few, 15 through 18, look like they could have been taken surreptitiously.
posted by immlass at 10:02 AM on July 18, 2011


May Dennis (number 12) has a remarkably contemporary look; If I saw that in a modern newspaper, maybe minus the "12" overlay, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about how old the image actually was and would have assumed it was snapped days earlier.
posted by quin at 10:02 AM on July 18, 2011


What a fascinating archive - thanks, The Whelk. Looking at them, a few could be post-arrest pictures (3 and 14, for instance, where Margaret McFarlane and Lillian Forrester both stare straight at the camera), but some do seem to have been covertly taken - 17, for instance, where Jennie Baines is coming through a gate, and perhaps most of them where the women are either not looking at the camera or are laughing.

Random book rec - the mystery series by Gillian Linscott about suffragist Nell Bray is great at giving a sense of the time & the commitment and fear felt by the women involved. The first is Sister Beneath the Sheet.
posted by paduasoy at 10:04 AM on July 18, 2011


Lilian Lenton, arsonist and 'tiny, wily, elusive Pimpernel' (!) certainly had an interesting life.

I'm annoyed to see Wikipedia goes in for the coy nudge-wink obituary closer 'She never married.' on her page. If she was gay, say so.
posted by jack_mo at 10:04 AM on July 18, 2011


There's some interesting cross-dressing going on a few shots

From the abstract for "'The Suffragette and the Dress Problem’: A Reassessment of the Relationship between the Suffragettes, Fashion and Femininity before the First World War":
This dissertation argues that a significant number of suffragettes created a hybridised gendered appearance, by appropriating items of clothing traditionally linked to male dress and closely associated with masculinity. Tailoring, bowler-hats, cravats, collars and ties within suffragette dress directly conflict with the WSPU’s directives stressing the political importance of a traditionally feminine appearance. It is argued that these modes of dress were adopted by suffragettes, not only because they were more practical and conformed to a new aesthetic, but also because they embodied qualities of rationality and professionalism that challenged conventional understandings of feminine identity.
and Verity Oates is just a great name. Agreed!
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:09 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


While it is shallow to judge people solely on appearance -- and I'll admit I'm probably projecting because I know where these pictures are coming from -- but I can't help but see "badass" when I look into their eyes.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:16 AM on July 18, 2011


If she was gay, say so.

She was born in 18-freaking-91. The modern social constructs of sexual orientation didn't even exist for most of her life, let alone having her romantic proclivities revealed to history. All we know is she never married. Lots of folks never married, for all kinds of reasons. It would be way more offensive if the article said "she never married, which is evidence that she was a lesbian."
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:16 AM on July 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


The BBC article about the photography really needs to be read as well in order to understand what kind of camera was bought and why it was special. The Metropolitan Police owned plenty of cameras before 1912, but the development these pictures represent was ground-breaking.


Also, yay Suffragettes! Thanks for not pandering to the bullshit political process of the time.
posted by Jehan at 10:20 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now this is great Metafilter

Thank you The Whelk!
posted by infini at 10:26 AM on July 18, 2011


Another website with a little different information on the photographs.
posted by Jehan at 10:26 AM on July 18, 2011


More on lesbianism within the movement (and alleged lesbianism, or at least emotional lesbianism).
posted by dhartung at 10:26 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If that was Scotland Yard's first camera, who took the crime scene photographs of Jack the Ripper's victims?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:30 AM on July 18, 2011


Halloween Jack, the link Jehan has given explains the camera and its use more accurately and answers your question
posted by infini at 10:45 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


All we know is she never married. Lots of folks never married, for all kinds of reasons. It would be way more offensive if the article said "she never married, which is evidence that she was a lesbian."

That's exactly what I'm complaining about! 'S/he never married' doesn't just mean, 'S/he never married'. It's an innuendo-laden, arguably homophobic code term that was famously used as the last line of an obituary in newspapers for years, meaning 'The subject was gay, but we're not going to say that'.

Wikipedia shouldn't be using it - if there's evidence Lenton was gay, it should be provided, if there isn't and they just want to mention that she literally never got married, they should choose a less loaded phrase. As it stands, the entry on Langton ends with the highbrow equivalent of 'Totally a lezzer! LOL!'.
posted by jack_mo at 10:50 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's an innuendo-laden, arguably homophobic code term that was famously used as the last line of an obituary in newspapers for years, meaning 'The subject was gay, but we're not going to say that'.

Ah. Learn something new all the time.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:53 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


EvaDestruction Remenescent of the modern New Atheists/Polite Atheists argument.

And, I suppose, inevitable in any social reform movement. Do you embrace the totality of what you advocate, or do you try to advocate narrowly and dress/act the part of a socially conservative person in an attempt to garner some support from fence sitters?

I fall into the former camp, though I can certainly understand arguments for the latter.
posted by sotonohito at 10:54 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like number 15, the militant suffragette known only as "Miss Johansen." Gives her a nice air of mystery. The jaunty hat doesn't hurt, either.
posted by jedicus at 10:55 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is a negative connotation to calling them suffragettes instead of suffragists. The former is a diminutive, and it diminishes the fight for the right to vote. Suffragist, in contrast, just means someone who is fighting for suffrage/vote. Many of these women did call themselves suffragists and understood the power of language.
posted by mareli at 10:56 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is a negative connotation to calling them suffragettes instead of suffragists.
That's true in the US but not in Britain, where militant suffragists reclaimed and embraced the term suffragette. Suffragist was still used for non-militant suffrage advocates.
posted by craichead at 11:09 AM on July 18, 2011


There is a negative connotation to calling them suffragettes instead of suffragists.

"Suffragette is a term coined by the Daily Mail newspaper as a derogatory label for members of the late 19th and early 20th century movement for women's suffrage in the United Kingdom, in particular members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). However, after former and then active members of the movement began to reclaim the word, the term became a label without negative connotations. It derives from the word "suffrage", meaning the right to vote."
posted by iviken at 11:21 AM on July 18, 2011


jack_mo writes "I'm annoyed to see Wikipedia goes in for the coy nudge-wink obituary closer 'She never married.' on her page. If she was gay, say so."

Bigots have to cut back on the code talk 'cause I'm totally not getting these messages. Also I wonder how often I use an innocent turn of phrase that offends someone because some group is using it as code.
posted by Mitheral at 11:24 AM on July 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Awesome post. These are great.
posted by kinnakeet at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2011


if ... they just want to mention that she literally never got married, they should choose a less loaded phrase

She never married respectfully declined a legally sanctioned lifelong union with The Twig and Berries.

FTFY
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:28 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


In 1912, Scotland Yard detectives bought their first camera, to covertly photograph suffragettes.

Good to see they had their priorities just as straight 99 years ago as they do today.
posted by DU at 11:31 AM on July 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Will someone please provide me with a succinct, yet non-homophobic way of stating that she never married?

Maybe I'm dumber than dirt, but either she did marry, or she didn't, and her true sexual orientation can't be determined by either statement, given that most women of that era married (for support, children, other reasons.)
posted by BlueHorse at 11:37 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group has always had this aspect as a grey area. I recall articles would mention using the same words "he never married" and actually assumed the same as what is being said, that it was polite code for he's gay (he's also on the board of the Gates Foundations AID programme in India)

However, I just found this snippet - is it any better to have to articulate it so painfully in public?

Is Ratan Tata Married? Who is Ratan Tata’s Wife?

There are many contradictory reports and details available across the net about the Rata Tata’s Wife and Marriage. Some say he was suppose to get married but did not marry; some say Ratan Tata has Wife in US.

But the matter of truth is that Ratan Tata is not married.

Updated (14th April ’11): In a recent interview to a US-based TV channel, Ratan Tata has revealed that he was “seriously” in love four times and came close to getting married each of those times but never got married. The most serious was one when he was working in US in 1960.

He recounts, “…the only reason we didn’t get married was that I came back to India and she was to follow me and that was the year of the, if you like, the Indo-Chinese conflict and in true American fashion this conflict in the Himalayas, in the snowy, uninhabited part of the Himalayas was seen in the United States as a major war between India and China and so, she didn’t come and finally got married in the US thereafter.”

posted by infini at 11:42 AM on July 18, 2011


Will someone please provide me with a succinct, yet non-homophobic way of stating that she never married?

It isn't needful to say that a person never married, just like it isn't necessary to say that somebody has no children. If no partner or no children are mentioned, then it's a fair assumption that either they don't exist or aren't relevant. Maybe if somebody had children and was not married, or had a lifelong partnership without marriage, it might be fair to say so. Otherwise it's best to walk away from the assumption that marriage is normal or expected, and deviations from that need to be flagged up.
posted by Jehan at 12:41 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Will someone please provide me with a succinct, yet non-homophobic way of stating that she never married?

She was a confirmed bachelorette.
posted by 445supermag at 12:45 PM on July 18, 2011


Big Brother and the sisters. 2003 article with some background. I also see alot of blogs ran with this around july 5 this year. I'm not sure these are the first surveillance photos. I recall seeing some russian photos from the turn of the century.
posted by clavdivs at 12:54 PM on July 18, 2011


Margaret McFarlane will fucking fight you.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:58 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Margaret McFarlane is my favorite because, oh Margaret, honey. The hair. I UNDERSTAND. I'm sorry you weren't born in time for Control Paste, because sweetie, that shit is MAGIC.

Your sister in difficult hair,

bitter-girl.com
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:11 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


The pictures were compiled into ID sheets for officers on the ground and then sold to the News of the World.
posted by alasdair at 1:30 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If no partner or no children are mentioned, then it's a fair assumption that either they don't exist or aren't relevant.

On wikipedia? No, it isn't. Lots of wikipedia articles on all kinds of topics don't have anything to say about people and things that are perfectly existent and relevant. It just means whoever happened to put those pages together didn't care or know about those matters. So explicit statements about a subject's relationship status will always be more useful to anyone who wants that information, for whatever reason, than trying to read the the blank spaces left behind in a piece that's been added and subtracted to by dozens or hundreds of people as if they meant anything in particular.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:34 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


2 - Olive Leared

I think that's just her face.
posted by fairmettle at 2:00 PM on July 18, 2011


These are great, superb find by The Whelk. To think that these women were hardcore activists in their day....

Agree with the "modern look" comments for 12 (May Dennis) - she looks like a modern movie star (or maybe a bit like Alanis Morrisette?)

And No 13 (Kitty Marion (Katherina Maria Schafer)) looks like an old time film star, the next Biograph girl maybe.

Also agree with jedicus' comment about Miss Johansen. Makes her sound (and look) like a secret agent.

And here I was expecting a Bowie post.
posted by marienbad at 2:12 PM on July 18, 2011


The wikipedia article says that #12 was taken in a prison yard while Lenton was incarcerated, so her modern look may have more to do with having her hairpins taken away as a safety measure rather than personal style. Regardless, what a remarkable and admirable woman:

"Whenever I was out of prison my object was to burn two buildings a week… The object was to create an absolutely impossible condition of affairs in the country, to prove it was impossible to govern without the consent of the governed"....
posted by frobozz at 3:29 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mary Raleigh Richardson (1889 – November 7, 1961) was a Canadian suffragette active in the women's suffrage movement in the United Kingdom and later the head of the women's section of British Union of Fascists (BUF) led by Sir Oswald Mosley.

Interesting post. Thanks for this
posted by the noob at 5:30 PM on July 18, 2011


'S/he never married' doesn't just mean, 'S/he never married'. It's an innuendo-laden, arguably homophobic code term

VERY arguable, yes. I've never married. I'm not a lesbian. If I croaked today, I would think it relevant for a short personal bio of mine to point out that I never married, and I don't know what could be a more straightforward way of expressing that than "she never married".

In a longer bio, we could get a more nuanced understanding of her personal life and with whom she spent it, perhaps. But maybe that isn't known, and all we can say for sure is that she didn't marry.

that was famously used as the last line of an obituary in newspapers for years, meaning 'The subject was gay, but we're not going to say that'.

So, what, that means you get to own that phrase forever and ever, and dictate how it's used? That you get to sweep aside any other possible use?

Wikipedia shouldn't be using it - if there's evidence Lenton was gay, it should be provided, if there isn't and they just want to mention that she literally never got married, they should choose a less loaded phrase.

What specific phrase would appease you? Do you want the wiki writers to add the word "literally"?
posted by parrot_person at 11:45 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is great, thanks, and very timely - I'm just in the middle of reading Mrs Pankhurst's memoirs (in the public domain). I highly recommend them. They're written for an American readership at the time, so also do a great job of explaining things like the Poor Laws, the right of petition, that are relatively obscure today.
posted by tavegyl at 2:02 AM on July 19, 2011


I've never married. I'm not a lesbian. If I croaked today, I would think it relevant for a short personal bio of mine to point out that I never married, and I don't know what could be a more straightforward way of expressing that than "she never married".

In a longer bio, we could get a more nuanced understanding of her personal life and with whom she spent it, perhaps. But maybe that isn't known, and all we can say for sure is that she didn't marry.


You're sort of missing the point - the phrase has been used as code for 'homosexual' for decades, and it's the exact phrasing and placement as a final sentence that marks it out as a reference to this dodgy tradition. So, 'parrot_person, who never got married, was a lifelong campaigner for parrot rights' in the body of an obit. would make people think you never got married. 'She never married' on the last line will make people think you were a lesbian, and that the writer is too coy or homophobic to mention the fact.

So, what, that means you get to own that phrase forever and ever, and dictate how it's used? That you get to sweep aside any other possible use?

I'm not doing anything of the sort - it's a genuinely loaded term with a long history. The only US equivalent that springs to mind is the common description of a black public figures as 'articulate', which most people read as definitely patronising and probably racist. Give it - what? - twenty years, and no one will see that use of the word 'articulate' as a shibboleth, they'll just think the person in question is particularly articulate.

I'll admit that 'S/he never married' is on its way out, except as a self-referential joke - the Telegraph mocked their own use of the phrase brilliantly in their obit. of the unquestionably gay Count Gottfried von Bismarck. (Foul as the Telegraph is, they elevated the obit. to an art form under the slightly bonkers Hugh Massingberd, partly in reaction to the Times' long, fawning obituaries, where any hint of 'scandal' was buried in coded phrases like 'he never married', or 'close friendship'.)

Will someone please provide me with a succinct, yet non-homophobic way of stating that she never married?

Pretty much anything you can think of that isn't 'S/he never married.' as the final sentence in an obituary.

Sorry for the derail.
posted by jack_mo at 6:40 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll admit that 'S/he never married' is on its way out, except as a self-referential joke - the Telegraph mocked their own use of the phrase brilliantly in their obit. of the unquestionably gay Count Gottfried von Bismarck. (Foul as the Telegraph is, they elevated the obit. to an art form under the slightly bonkers Hugh Massingberd, partly in reaction to the Times' long, fawning obituaries, where any hint of 'scandal' was buried in coded phrases like 'he never married', or 'close friendship'.)

See also "confirmed bachelor". The reasons for using this term could be more or less supportive, but it was a way for newspapers to call a gay man gay for a long time.

Whether a modern reader (or indeed a modern Wikipedia contributor) would know the history of the phrase is less certain. In this case, I'd bet it was copied verbatim from the Times obituary in 1972, where it was almost certainly being used as a code term.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:03 AM on July 19, 2011


jack_mo, I had never heard of this coded meaning before, and as you can see from reading this thread, that's the case for a fair number of other people too. I don't think it's reasonable for you to insist that the only possible reason the wiki writer could have used that phrase as the final sentence is because they intended it to be code for "she is gay", nor that it be verboten to use across the board just because one of the uses, to some people, at one time, was offensive.

I'm also not at all familiar with your claim about "articulate" being a code word, when used to describe a black politician. I'm a life-long resident of the USA, and I just don't share that perception at all. If a politician is described as "articulate", I assume that the writer believes that politician is articulate, period. Again, I don't think it's fair for someone to insist that their interpretation is the only interpretation, that the writer intended for the reader to have that interpretation, and that no one should ever use that word to describe a black politician, just because some people have at some points in the past meant it in an offensive way.
posted by parrot_person at 10:18 PM on July 20, 2011


jack_mo, I had never heard of this coded meaning before, and as you can see from reading this thread, that's the case for a fair number of other people too. I don't think it's reasonable for you to insist that the only possible reason the wiki writer could have used that phrase as the final sentence is because they intended it to be code for "she is gay", nor that it be verboten to use across the board just because one of the uses, to some people, at one time, was offensive.

I'm not insisting any of those things - as running order squabble fest says, it might well have been copied unknowingly from the Times obit., and as I clearly say above 'he never married' is (thankfully) on its way out. I am insisting that the phrase has a well-known double meaning, and for as long as it does care should be taken over its use.

I'm also not at all familiar with your claim about "articulate" being a code word, when used to describe a black politician. I'm a life-long resident of the USA, and I just don't share that perception at all.

Well, sorry, but that's just completely cloth-eared. It's such a well-known backhanded compliment in the US that I know about it here in the UK! Chris Rock (who was referring to constant descriptions of Colin Powell as articulate, I think) sums up why it causes offence: "'Articulate' isn't a compliment, it's what you call someone when you expect him to be stupid."

The most famous recent example is probably Biden's assessment of Obama as 'the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy' - it cased a huge kerfuffle, and he publicly apologised to Obama. Here on MetaFilter the usage almost never passes without comment - see, e.g.., this recent thread.

Just because you're blithely unaware of the offence that a seemingly benign word like 'articulate' can cause doesn't mean that the offence isn't real, and hurtful.

I also think it's worth pointing these things out. Before this thread, you might, quite reasonably and innocently, have described a black friend as articulate, and unknowingly upset them - isn't it better to be aware of loaded terms and 'dog whistles' so that you can avoid upsetting people, and recognise them when an author is using an apparent fact as a subtle slur?
posted by jack_mo at 12:32 AM on July 21, 2011


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