Streatham’s Suffragette Movement

By: David Wright

The recent Women’s Marches in London and across the world, a global movement for rights, it seems appropriate to recall two prominent women in Streatham from the time of the Suffragettes.

Leonora Tyson

Image of Leonora Tyson, Streatham suffragette

The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded by the Pankhurst family in 1903, and by 1912 was at its height of militancy. Following demonstrations in central London in early March a Streatham resident, Leonora Tyson, was arrested and sentenced to two months of hard labour in Holloway Jail, where she went on hunger strike.

Leonora lived with her mother and siblings at 37 Drewstead Road, Streatham.  She was a very active member of the WSPU, and Secretary of the Streatham, and eventually the Lambeth branch.  She played an active role throughout the Borough attending meetings, speaking at Streatham Library and working with the HQ of the Streatham WSPU at 5 Shrubbery Road.

After her release from prison and a speaking tour in Germany she was involved in organising a Suffragette demonstration on Streatham Common in July 1912 attended by almost 5,000. Various meetings continued at Streatham Town Hall throughout 1913 including speeches from Mrs Pankhurst.  Disruptive events continued in Streatham right up until the outbreak of war in August 1914, and Leonara remained active for the cause. Attitudes changed dramatically after the war and all women over 21 eventually won the right to vote in 1928.  Leonora died in East Sheen in 1959 aged 75.

Christina Broom

Image of Christina Broom, Streatham suffragette and one fo the first female professional photographers in the UK

Christina Broom (1862 –1939) was a photographer credited as the first female press photographer in the UK.

Around 1901 she and her husband opened a stationers’ shop at 87 Streatham Hill in what was regarded then as middle-class suburban south-west London.  At first, they sold postcards (a fast- growing business at that time) by acquiring copyright to other photographers’ pictures.  But in 1903 she became the family breadwinner by teaching herself to be a commercial photographer and would take images of street scenes and sell them as postcards.

The couple eventually moved to Chelsea and photographed the Royal Family, was appointed official photographer to the Household Division, had a darkroom at Chelsea Barracks and a stall the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace from 1904-1930.  

Christina took many photographs of local scenes as well as events such as the Boat Race and top racehorses and their jockeys. In the ‘20s and ‘30s her photographs were often featured in the Illustrated London News, Country Life and The Tatler.

She also took some of the best photographs of Suffragettes campaigns in the lead up to the First World War, very ably assisted by her daughter Winifred.

Christina Broom’s photographs are a vivid visual record of London and the Suffragette movement. Many prints are at the Museum of London.