This just goes to show how seriously the establishment perceived the threat from the Suffragette movement: According to the BBC,
“In 1912, Scotland Yard detectives bought their first camera to covertly photograph the suffragettes. The pictures were compiled into ID sheets for officers on the ground.”
I wonder if they ever brought their camera north to photograph the ne’er-do-wells that my Great Granny and her sisters were. They took part in public demonstrations, which would have provided ample opportunity for the Yard’s snapper – like this one from 1909, a couple of years earlier:
In addition to taking covert photographs, Scotland Yard’s camera was also used to produce mug shots of women prisonners. These were circulated to aid identification of these trouble makers on release. Bearing in mind that these were women who were hunger-striking and being force fed, they weren’t willing models for these photographs.
For example, Evelyn Manesta was photographed while being held in place by a prison guard:
But after a spot of light air-brushing, no-one need ever know of the way these women were being treated:
Using cards like this to identify likely trouble makers is something that still goes on today. The police’s Public Order Intelligence Unit (CO11) produces these spotter cards - target “H” on this example is comedian and political activist, Mark Thomas:
I didn’t include Scotland Yard’s use of modern technology in their fight against women’s suffrage when I was writing The Suffragette. Information on this part of the police’s programme was so sensitive that it was only released last year. But I do like to think that my characters Maggie Beaton and Alice Pearson would have been the kind of people to attract this unwanted attention!
More Suffragettes Under Surveillance photos are available on the Retronaut site.