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'Surveillance Photograph of Militant Suffragettes'

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'Surveillance Photograph of Militant Suffragettes'

by Criminal Record Office
bromide print mounted onto identification sheet, 1914
6 7/8 in. x 8 1/4 in. (174 mm x 210 mm) overall
Acquired from Criminal Record Office, 1914
Photographs Collection
NPG x132847

Artistback to top

Sittersback to top

This portraitback to top

Surveillance photographs of militant Suffragettes were issued to public galleries including the National Portrait Gallery in 1914. Most of the images in the composite group photograph were taken undercover while the women were in the exercise yards of Manchester or Holloway prisons. While the surveillance photograph lacks any of the understanding between artist and sitter necessary in a portrait, the images are themselves striking and sometimes unintentionally heroic. Of those included, Gertrude Ansell (1861–1932) (below, bottom row, second left), a professional typist, attacked Hubert Herkomer’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington at the Royal Academy and was forcibly fed 236 times. The music-hall actress Kitty Marion is the only subject represented with a professional portrait photograph (above, top row, third right). Imprisoned seven times, her autobiography is a valuable account by a ‘foot soldier’ of the suffrage movement.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG x45566: Miriam Pratt (appears within the portrait)
  • NPG x45565: Jennie Baines (appears within the portrait)
  • NPG x45564: Clara Elizabeth Giveen (appears within the portrait)
  • NPG x45563: Miss Johansen (appears within the portrait)
  • NPG x45562: Lillian Forrester (appears within the portrait)
  • NPG x45560: Lilian Lenton (appears within the portrait)
  • NPG x45559: Mary Raleigh Richardson (appears within the portrait)
  • NPG x45561: Kitty Marion (Katherina Maria Schafer) (appears within the portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Photographs, 2018, p. 52 Read entry

    These two groups of surveillance photographs of militant Suffragettes were issued to public galleries, including the National Portrait Gallery, in 1914. Most of the photographs show women serving sentences in Holloway and Manchester prisons, and were taken undercover in prison exercise yards. Of those featured, Gertrude Ansell (1861-1932; bottom row, second from the left), a professional typist, attacked Hubert Herkomer’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington at the Royal Academy and was forcibly fed 236 times. The actress Kitty Marion (1871-1944; top row, third from the left) is the only subject represented with a professional portrait photograph. Imprisoned seven times, she wrote an autobiography that is a valuable account by a ‘foot soldier’ of the suffrage movement.

  • Schama, Simon, The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits, 2015-09-15, p. 517

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Events of 1914back to top

Current affairs

Following Germany's declaration of war on France and invasion of Belgium, Herbert Henry Asquith, the British Prime Minister, declares war on the German Empire on August 4, 1914. The popular belief that the conflict would be 'over by Christmas' was soon found to be a bitter underestimate of the scale of the war.

Art and science

The fist issue of the periodical Blast is published by Wyndham Lewis, announcing the advent of Vorticism. This movement, named by Ezra Pound and taking in art and poetry, combined the vitality and dynamism of Italian Futurism with the geometric structure of Cubism. Vorticism was a direct challenge to the perceived quaint and domestic style of the Bloomsbury group and Roger Fry's Omega Workshop.


On June 28th 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria is assassinated in Sarajevo leading to Austria's declaration of war against Serbia and triggering the First World War. Germany declared war on Serbia's ally, Russia, and then marched on France via Belgium. Soon all of Europe and most of the world was embroiled in total war.

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