Suffragist photography

Suffragist photography

The 2018 centenary of the suffrage movement was marked in Camden with a display exhibition at the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre. A little-known footnote is the contribution of Alice Maud Barker and Albert Oscar Mohr, who had their photographic studio, the Merchants’ Portrait Company, in 106-110 Kentish Town Road (the Dunn’s clothing warehouse).

The picture, which has been used with a recent planning application, shows the Merchant’s Portrait Co. sign on the second floor:

Photography archives record Mohr as an enlarger, living in Holloway, and he may have done the printing. Little is known of Barker – although an Ethel Barker was a family portraitist in Putney, and an Ethel Alice Maud Barker had a divorce in 1919.

A portrait taken by the Merchants’ Portrait Company in 1909 was of Charlotte Despard, first president of the Women’s Social and Political Union, who “wore sandals all year round and always had a Spanish mantilla on her head”.

The Barker & Mohr photos of Charlotte Despard are in The National Archives. The Merchants’ Portrait Company lives on in the contemporary world through another medium: lapel-badges from the period bearing the company’s name and address printed on the pin are nowadays collected as memorabilia.  Styling themselves “Makers of the Womens’ Social and Political Union badge”, the company marketed a picture of the WSPU founder Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst for sale with feminist-coloured ribbons for 5d

The badge for the Women’s Freedom League, now in the Museum of London, encourages women to boycott the April 1911 Census through spoiled or incomplete census returns.

And materials with Suffragist colours include medals and lapel badges:

Picture2Similar materials are to be found being traded on the internet.