Our October outing took in London sites connected with the history of women in wartime and culminated in a visit to an exhibition of the work of the UK’s first female press photographer, writes Jenny Ford
The theme of October’s day out was suffragettes and inspirational women of the Great War. After picking up our friendly and knowledgeable guide, Carole, we started our trip with coffee at a flower-decked pub near Waterloo station. We were then taken on a coach tour of central London, with Carole explaining the importance of women’s contribution to the war effort.
Men were conscripted in 1916 and women were needed in all areas, including the Post Office, munitions, farming and, of course, transport, to keep the country going. They were never allowed to drive a train, however – that treat was reserved for men!
Carole pointed out many places connected to the suffragettes and the war, such as the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in the House of Commons garden; Edith Cavell’s statue; the Ritz, where many fund-raising events were held; and the Military Hospital in Charing Cross. She also explained the background to the white feather, which was given to men who were not in uniform.
We were told that cock fighting was a popular sport but, apparently, white cocks are timid and do not fight.
We returned to the pub for a pleasant lunch and then on to the Museum of London Docklands. This is devoted to a history of the dock area from Roman times to the present day. A fascinating story was presented, charting the importance of the Thames for transport over the centuries and illustrated by pictures showing the river crowded with ships of all sizes. Change came in the 1960s with containerisation, the dock strike and, of course, the end of the Empire. The wharves and docks were left deserted and ripe for later development into flats and offices, as we see in the area today.
The main reason for our visit was the excellent exhibition devoted to Christina Broom (1862-1939), regarded as the UK’s first female press photographer. After her husband was crippled in an accident this tough and redoubtable lady took her camera and tripod to the streets of London, capturing thousands of images of people and events. These she had made into postcards, which she sold to support her family.
Many of her pictures were of the suffragettes and, although she did not march herself, her contribution to the advancement of women’s equality was every bit as valid. I am sure that, given the chance, she would not have hesitated to take her camera to a war zone, as Lee Miller did in the Second World War.
This was an enjoyable and instructive day.