CreativeReview

Christina Broom – suffragettes and soldiers

Nurses and midwives marching in their uniforms to the Albert Hall as part of the Pageant of Women’s Trades and Professions, 27 April 1909. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

Next year the Museum of London Docklands will stage an exhibition of the work of Christina Broom, thought to be the UK’s first female press photographer. From 1903, her work documented life in the capital, recording both the suffragette movement and the experiences of the soldiers on the home front during the First World War

Entering into her photographic career at the age of 40, Broom started out by selling her images as postcards from a stall at the gates of the Royal Mews in London (see portrait at bottom of post).

Her images went on to be published by Tatler, The Daily Sketch, Illustrated London News and Country Life, until her death in 1939.

Coachmen and visitors at the Royal Mews, c.1920. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

 

Broom recorded many of the notable events of the day, from the Oxford and Cambridge boat race and Lord Mayor’s Parade, to royal coronations, funerals and pageants.

Among some of the most striking images that will be on show at the Museum, however, are the many photographs Broom took of the suffragette movement – including the parades staged by various organisations including The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and the Women’s Social and Political Union.

Women police officers and Inspector Mary Allen, a former suffragette, at the Women’s War Work Exhibition, London, 1916. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

Suffragettes taking part in a pageant organised by The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, 13 June 1908. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

Suffragette Christabel Pankhurst, [daughter of Emmeline] co-founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), photographed inside The Women’s Exhibition, held at the Princes’ Skating Rink, Knightsbridge, May 1909. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

 

The exhibition is the first dedicated solely to her work and will include photographs that have previously been in private collections and never-before-seen on public display.

These will be joined, says the Museum, by original glass plate negatives, postcards and objects including personal possessions, letters, event passes, autograph books, notebooks and cuttings books.

There are also several images of British and American soldiers – often seen relaxing in barracks or embarking on excercises while stationed on the home front – that Broom took during the early years of the First World War.

4th Battalion Grenadier Guards look to the camera during their Christmas meal at Chelsea Barracks, 1914. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

Guards from the 4th Battalion Grenadiers enjoying Christmas Dinner at Chelsea Barracks, 1915. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

Grenadier Guards pose for the camera from their camp at Wimbledon Common, 1914. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

The first American contingent of the War, briefly in Wellington Barracks, 1917. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

 

“Christina Broom is a somewhat under-appreciated figure in photography, and we hope that this major exhibition will redress this,” says Anna Sparham, curator of photographs at the Museum of London.

“It will not just show off her work, but portray Broom, who was a formidable, determined woman, and commercially-astute – taking advantage of a rapidly growing postcard market.”

Christina Broom with her stall at the Women’s War Work Exhibition, Princes’ Skating Rink, Knightsbridge, 1916. © Christina Broom/Museum of London

“Broom’s strength of character shines through her competency at orchestrating people, directing their attention and making unflustered compositions despite the crowds and activities often surrounding them, “Sparham continues. “Her impressive photographs can appear remarkably contemporary at times despite their historic relevance.”

Soldiers and Suffragettes: the Photography of Christina Broom opens June 19 2015 at the Museum of London Docklands and will continue until November 1. Further details on the exhibition at museumoflondon.org.uk.