1913: Suffragette Surveillance

“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.

“When Evelyn Manesta, one of the Manchester suffragettes, refused to pose for a picture, a guard was brought in to restrain her in front of the camera.

“But when the photograph of Evelyn Manesta appeared, the arm had been removed. The photographer had acted on official instructions to doctor the photograph so that it would be less controversial.”


Evelyn Manesta before

10 -  Evelyn Manesta

Evelyn Manesta after



58 Responses

  1. Hans Peter

    I thought that the female suffragettes were mainly old hags. I see now that I was only partly right. Mrs. Schafer and Mrs. Dennis prove me wrong.

    • Rusty

      You’re an idiot and you’ve proven yet a second time.

      Look up ‘irony’ in the dictionary you moron.

  2. Polly

    Just a random observation – I spotted two look-a-likes:

    11 – Mary Raleigh Richardson – Princess Anne
    15 – Miss Johansen – The Mask (Jim Carey)

  3. Hans Peter

    Another look alike: 1 – Margaret Scott – Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin in drag.

    • Rusty

      Aaaaaaand, there’s the 3rd for a hat-trick.

      To paraphrase Yoda “The stupid is strong n this one!”

  4. David B

    Hans – you have a lot to say about how these women look. Maybe you should show us a picture of yourself now?

  5. Patricia Murray

    Yes, Hans. How do YOU look. More to the point, what cause would you feck up your life for?????

  6. Huig

    Yes, we all have laughed too much in the last decades.
    Let us all look serious and stop laughing now!

  7. anon

    The point is NOT what they look like in these photographs but what they did.

  8. thalia campbell

    in the 1980s I met the grandaughter of that man and she shared with me her mother and grandmothers shame at what he was doing.. They did the same to the greeham women and the americans too at the base at Welford, the biggest store of Nuclear weapons in Europe I remember a woman puting a camera in our faces in a very aggressive manner. iasked years later to see tghese photios fron steela rimington , a very dusty answer anon

  9. Janniel

    These brave and sassy women did *not* refer to themselves by the diminutive “ette” The called themselves ‘suffragists’.

  10. Jinx

    No Ms. Pankhurst? She was infamous for handcuffing herself to a fence down in London, and getting arrested, and generally working HARD for the right to have a voice in government.

    Interesting, a friend has a great grandmother named Lillian Forrester who was born in the UK… But I think this one is younger than my friend’s relative….

  11. Lady Suffragist

    Hans, you sad, poor man. You think that how these women look is representative of their worth. You’re a typical biggot and as such you’ll live a restricted life where more than half the population of this world will continue to be distanced from you. What a sad life that must be.

  12. Willow

    I wrote my dissertation on Mary Raleigh Richardson, and spent many many hours trying to track down a picture of her to include in the appendices. How I wish I’d had access to this… If you can get your hands on a copy of her autobiography, Laugh A Defiance, do so.
    As an aside, isn’t it a rather damning indictment of our society that even now we still don’t value these women as change-making members of society, but rather spend our time commenting on their appearance? I find that very sad.

  13. Dr. Norman Polevaulter

    Why do people put criminals on a pedestal?
    These women were the Nelson Mandelas of their era and often resorted to acts of terrorism.
    If you break the law then you should be punished not rewarded.
    I won’t even mention the harm done by their movement and the effect that it has on the modern day events.
    It’s such a shame that the British government of their day gave in to their demands.

    • Kim H.

      Dr. Norman Polevaulter: HAHAHAHHAHAA, how old are you, like 14? Did you manage to make an entire paragraph? That must have been difficult for you. Some pointers: You can’t make a comparison of these people to Nelson Mandela, you know, the winner of the NOBEL PEACE PRIZE and world renown activist, then go on to say the govt and the like shouldn’t have “given in” to their demands….you mean like they did with Nelson Mandela? Which is it? You are AGAINST woman getting a vote in what happens in the world, since we are 51% of the world’s population or you are FOR these woman as they are Nelson Mandela-like?

      Bet you didn’t even realize you contradict yourself pretty mightily, thus showing you don’t have much of an intellectual grasp on whatever it is you are trying to illustrate. Why don’t you try it again and get back to us…

    • John vZ

      It’s quite sad that most decent ACTING people BELIEVE that law equals justice.

      There is no justice in a corruptible law system that is self regulating, self sufficient and self serving.

  14. skip

    Thanks for these photographs. What a heroic generation. Strange to see that a century after they fought an won, people are still making the same contemptuous, fearful jokes about them in your comments section.

  15. Janet MacLeod Trotter

    Great photographs! The suffragists came from a wide cross-section of society, and held a wide range of views on how to achieve their aims. These ranged from peaceful protest (pamphleteering, lobbying), to civil disobedience (my Great Aunt’s were census evaders in 1911!), and at the extreme, militant protest.

    It took the movement almost seventy years to achieve its aims, and it was only in about the last twenty of those that they had run out of patience with the route of peaceful protest. It’s a mark of how seriously the police took this that they were willing to go to such extreme lengths to clamp down on them.

  16. frank

    Brilliant pictures. Fascinating era and women. Inspiring. Shocking and sad that some comments are objectifying or criminalizing these amazingly brave women. Almost70 years fighting for there cause wow! RESPECT.

  17. shanti thomas

    Great photographs and interesting the name suffragists complete twist- what strength they showed in a fight for women’s rights and equality.The digs from the male bloggers show still a long way to go.

  18. Andrew

    I don’t know about the specific women above but their comrades also threw acid in politicians’ faces and committed arson.

    BTW, the driving force behind the North American suffragettes (like Canada’s Famous Five) was being upset that coloured men were getting the vote before white women. For some reason their racism, like that of Margaret Sanger, is never touted today. I wonder why?

  19. Jean

    @Andrew—you aren’t correct that this was racism. The North American suffragists were not upset that “coloured” people were getting the right to vote but that all women were being excluded when that right was only available for men, colored or not. Your comment is of another color—a red herring.

  20. Dianne

    Andrew, don’t make stuff up. Adding to the amount of misinformation and disinformation in the world really won’t make those threatened, anxious feelings you struggle with go away.

  21. Melanie

    It is just terriblw that we don’t know all these women’s names by heart, and only reflect upon the movement and move on to more things done by men. And to all you men out there. You can still try to put us down, but we did win the right, and we are just as good as you are, and your childish comments on this page really only shame you, and your kind (men).

  22. Kori

    We can be glad that the photographer kept the original photograph of Ms Manesta so that we may better know the story.

    Nonviolence is always, always best, but when you live with your opponent who knows nothing but being above you on all levels, the battle can not always be fought just by civil disobedience. And in that time, it wasn’t exactly easy for a woman to refuse to marry and earn her own living.

  23. Kori

    Of course I realize some of these women *did* refuse to marry, but for enough to do it to make an impact it would have to be in great numbers.

  24. Mary Groome

    My mother, No. 3, Margaret McFarlane is pictured here. She was 25 years old at the time and lived in Dundee, Scotland.
    This picture was taken with her in handcuffs I believe. She told us about her activities there with the suffrage movement.

    However, she came to America shortly after and lived the rest of her life here. She first settled in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle and Eugene Oregon. She married, became a nurse and an American citizen. Later with her 5 daughters and husband, Peter, she came East and eventually reached Rehoboth Beach, Delaware where she died in 1963 at the age of 76.
    She never regretted coming over here. She was a spunky, responsible, hard working and lovable woman and mother. She left the world a better place than before she came into it. I loved her deeply.

    • Avatar of Chris

      How incredibly exciting that you have found this image here and commented on it, Mary. Thank you so much.

    • Morag

      I was also really interested to read your post Mary. I currently live in Dundee and have been doing some research into the suffragette movement here, which was very active, partly due to the presence of Winston Churchill as MP. It was lovely to hear about your mother, thank you for posting this.

  25. MH

    We’ve been too spoiled with cosmetic surgery, digitally altered images of women, air brushing etc. So much so that when we see real people we often form negative opinions based on shallow appearances (ie: the ‘old hags’ comment – not a ‘joke’),and we forget the hard work they did to forge the pathways for women today.
    Although, sadly we’re now slipping backwards in women’s rights and freedoms; allowing the influence of archaic religions to creep into politics with their iron shackles and inquisitors, waiting hungrily for the next elections.

  26. Mary Groome

    Thank you Chris for your kind reply. It is exciting to see my mother on the Web.

  27. Sandy

    Heroic group of women. Bravely speaking truth to power and standing strong in the face of ridicule and abuse. They changed the world.

  28. Lu

    Mary Groome, how interesting that you replied! Your mother’s face was one that caught my eye. Something about it is very pleasing–her determination and lack of fear. She seems to be looking askance at the camera; someone who knows who she is. Thanks for letting us know more about her.

  29. soapbox

    These women spoke their minds and shared their opinion when it was not at all popular or correct for them to do so. They finally won their rights, which is fitting. And we all remember them for going against the norm and doing so. I think it’s ironic how when “Hans Peter”, “Dr. Norman Polevaulter”, and “Andrew” voice their opinions and minds about the material, everyone attacks them. Even though the same attackers herald these ladies for doing the same. Women rights is a much more serious issue than a photo comment, but self expression is still being exercised. Let the fellows be.

  30. Cheryl B

    My great great aunt and great great grandmother were part of the movement in the USA and both were beautiful women. Those making comments about suffragettes being old hags are either men who cannot handle the fact that women are their equals or are just being ignorant. If it weren’t for women like these, where would be be now?

  31. Lu

    That’s quite a false equivalency there, soapbox. On the contrary, I would say that the people retorting to comments about the women’s appearance were fighting basically the same fight that the suffragists did. Fighting to be taken seriously and to be allowed full membership in society, not treated like objects to be always subject to masculine judgment.

    Their appearance has nothing to do with their actions, and the insistence even today that it’s funny or cute to throw out a comment on a woman’s attractiveness, as if that’s the most important thing about her, is just depressing. Sure, they have the right to say those things, but we have the right to respond and hopefully change their minds. Whatever threat there might be to the continuing privilege of judging other humans primarily on their pleasing appearance is by no means equivalent to the surveillance, arrest, abuse, humiliation, and force-feeding of women trying to secure their civil rights. It’s really grotesque to reduce the suffragists’ efforts as a “self-expression” equivalent in principle to the right to “express” sexism.

  32. Suzanne

    Men (and girls) go read ‘Woman, Church & State’ by Matilda Jocelyn Gage 1892. Then ‘Gynecology’ Mary Daly.Go through the looking glass.Get wisdom and knowledge.Then try to argue reasonably

  33. Violet

    What fantastic Women these suffragists were. Interesting to see physical evidence of them and the unfair treatment by the Police.

  34. JohnDoe

    I think the “hag” comment probably needs an explanation (as I understand it, and no I don’t define people by the attractiveness) – there is a famous photo of a group of female prohibitionists with the slogan the lips that touch liquor shall not ours – alas none of the group photographed as conventionally attractive (and therefore perhaps inviting such behaviour). Indeed those considered attractive in any society rarely fight against that society’s evils in any meaningful manner since they are too often the beneficiaries.

    I for one cannot imagine living in a society where women are property, and cannot understand how so many women can support conservative/republican/libertarian/reactionary agendas, which seek to roll the back the clock to such an time.

  35. John

    Sad to relate but women, then and today, operate the exact same system with regard to men. Those males who fall outside their narrow band of what would be acceptable in terms of attractiveness or wealth are cold-shouldered instantly – regardless of how intellectual, heroic or good natured they may be.


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