How the state used undercover photography to track the most hardcore of militant suffragettes.
Undercover police from the Criminal Investigation Department attended Suffragette meetings, notebook in hand, to record any speeches that could be seen to ‘incite violence.’
These notes were often presented as evidence in conspiracy trials.
Incriminating documents and pamphlets were also seized during police raids of WSPU headquarters.
As well as being used by the police, the images were also issued to public organisations at risk of Suffragette attack, such as museums and art galleries.
Posted in the entrance of public buildings, any woman attempting to enter was compared to the images to prevent a potential incident.
The Museum of London holds over 60 surveillance images of Suffragettes, identified by their grainy quality.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the images is that, in many cases, they depict Suffragettes on hunger-strike, the debilitating effects of which are clearly visible.
The militant careers of these hardcore Suffragettes represent the courage and tenacity of the women, but also reveals why the tactics of ‘direct action’ continue to inspire, shock and divide opinion.
Here are the stories of five of the women whose surveillance images are held at the Museum...
Rearrested in October, on a charge of obstruction and assault, Grace did on this occasion receive a sentence of 2 months in Holloway.
In May 1914, using the alias Frieda Graham, Grace was arrested for damaging five paintings at the National Gallery, including Giovanni Bellini's The Agony in The Garden and Gentile Bellini's Portrait of a Mathematician.
Found guilty at trial, she was sentenced to six-months imprisonment.
Released on 5 June, delirious from her hunger strike, she cut off the long hair seen in her surveillance photograph.
Grace later went to Canada and married the photographer Victor Scholey, who took the original photographs of the Siege of Sidney Street in 1911.
She returned to Norfolk in the 1930s as a single parent, and remained unmarried for the rest of her life.
Kitty was arrested multiple times for militancy, the first in June 1909 for taking part in the WSPU deputation to the House of Commons.
She was also sentenced to five terms of imprisonment, her first in October 1909 when she and Dorothy Pethick were sent to prison for throwing a stone at a post office window in Newcastle.
Whilst in prison, Kitty went on hunger strike, was forcibly fed and set fire to her cell.
On her release in December she went on to perform in the Christmas pantomime season.
In 1913, Kitty and Clare Giveen were found guilty of causing a fire which destroyed the grandstand at Hurst Park racecourse.
The fire, which was one of several that Kitty claimed to be involved with, caused over £7000 worth of damage.
It is also assumed Kitty was responsible for the arson attack on the house of Arthur du Cros, the MP for St. Leonard’s in Sussex, as well as other arson attacks in 1913 and 1914.
During her last spell in Holloway for the grandstand fire, Kitty was released several times under the terms of the Cat and Mouse Act, and force-fed 232 times over a 14 week period.
Faced with deportation to Germany on the outbreak of World War I, Kitty eventually negotiated her passage to the USA, where she lived for the remainder of her life devoted to Margaret Sanger's birth control cause.
In March 1913, Olive was charged with setting fire to the tea pavilion in Kew Gardens. On arrest she used the alias Joyce Locke.
Found guilty of arson, Olive was sentenced to 18 months in the second division, for criminal prisoners.
Imprisoned in Holloway, Olive immediately went on hunger-strike and was released after 32 days under the terms of the Cat & Mouse act weighing just over 5½ stone (36kg).
On hearing this emotional speech that revealed her fragile mental condition, four Suffragettes in the public gallery threw tomatoes and smashed glass in the court, resulting in their own arrest and subsequent imprisonment.
Rachel and Mary (who was absent from the Court trial due to ill health) were both sentenced to 18 months hard labour for the arson.
On 4th March 1914 Mary Richardson entered the National Gallery and inflicted seven 'wounds' across Velázquez's painting 'The toilet of Venus.'
The painting had only been acquired for the nation in 1906, for the considerable sum of £45,000. The fame, value, and recent acquisition of the painting all helped make this a particularly sensitive attack on a national art treasure.
Richardson's slashes were deliberately aimed at the torso of the nude Venus.
In her defence she declared: ‘I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst who is the most beautiful character in modern history…
Justice is an element of beauty as much as colour and outline on canvas… until the public ceases to countenance human destruction, the stones cast against me for the destruction of this picture are each an evidence against them of artistic as well as moral and political humbug and hypocrisy.’
She was sentenced to 6 months in Holloway but, after forcible feeding, was released on the 6th April suffering again from appendicitis.
Richardson was arrested and imprisoned in Holloway twice more, each time being forcibly fed for the duration - between the 20th-25th May, and the 6th June-28th July 1914.
Her appendicitis was so severe after the last imprisonment that she needed to be operated on 2 days after her release.