The Suffrage Movement As Seen Through The Eyes Of Christina Broom, UK’s First Female Photojournalist

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The Suffrage Movement is having a moment… well lots of moments actually. This week The New York Times highlighted The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund, which is on a mission to erect the first statue of real women in NYC’s famed Central Park. Earlier this spring we told you about Suffragette, the feature film dedicated to telling the stories of the British women’s suffrage movement, and most recently, the Museum of London Docklands opened the exhibition Soldiers and Suffragettes: The Photography of Christina Broom, celebrating the UK’s first female photojournalist.

The exhibition, which opened on June 19th, marks Christina Broom’s (1862-1939) place in history through a collection of prints, glass plate negatives, and picture postcards amassed over an impressive 30-year career.

With a bold pioneering spirit, Christina took her camera to the streets and captured thousands of images of people and events in London, revealing unique observations of the city at the start of the 20th century.

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

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

Among the images are never-before-seen shots from her coverage of the suffrage movement, which was in full swing at the time. Although she didn’t identify as a suffragist, Christina was fascinated by the activists, and documented their work and protests closely.

In addition to the photographs, the exhibition also unveils the extraordinary story of this self-taught novice who turned photography into a business to support her family.

In 1903, after her family’s hardware business failed, Christina borrowed a box camera from a friend and taught herself to shoot. She began developing glass plate negatives in her coal cellar, and by 1904 had opened a stall in the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace selling picture postcards to tourists. She ran this stall with her daughter Winifred until 1930.

At the same time, Christina was appointed the official photographer to the country’s Household Division (elite army regiments) and had a darkroom in the Chelsea Barracks. Her work was featured in publications such as the Illustrated London News, The Tatler, The Sphere and Country Life.

Christina died in 1939, and had it not been for her daughter Winifred, who safeguarded her mother’s work, housing the negatives in public institutions, we may have never known this extraordinary woman’s story.

The exhibit is free to attend and will be on display until November 1, 2015. For more information and to view more images, visit the Museum of London Docklands website.

Suffragette Christabel Pankhurst, [daughter of Emmeline] co-founder of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), photographed at The Women's Exhibition, May 1909.

Christabel Pankhurst, [daughter of Emmeline] co-founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), photographed at The Women’s Exhibition, May 1909.

Nurses and midwives marching in their uniforms to the Albert Hall as part of the Pageant of Women's Trades and Professions, April 1909.

Nurses and midwives marching in their uniforms to the Albert Hall as part of the Pageant of Women’s Trades and Professions, April 1909.

The Prisoners’ Pageant, including key members of the WSPU Emmeline Pethick- Lawrence, Sylvia Pankhurst and Emily Wilding Davison, themselves former prisoners, 23 July 1910

The Prisoners’ Pageant, including key members of the WSPU Emmeline Pethick- Lawrence, Sylvia Pankhurst and Emily Wilding Davison, themselves former prisoners, 23 July 1910

Suffragette procession promoting the Women’s Exhibition held at the Prince’s Skating Rink, Knightsbridge, May 1909

Suffragette procession promoting the Women’s Exhibition held at the Prince’s Skating Rink, Knightsbridge, May 1909

Young Suffragettes advertising the Women’s exhibition, 8 May 1909 (

Young Suffragettes advertising the Women’s exhibition, 8 May 1909

All images © Museum of London

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