Four young women with Union Jack

These college-age women have a determined air about them, as if they’re on a mission.  They’ve arranged themselves around a pedestal with a Union Jack flag draped over it, adding a patriotic aspect to the portrait and perhaps suggesting political activism.  Were they participants in the women’s suffrage movement?  What does the ribbon on the flag signify?  The cabinet card has no information on it, so we’ll have to guess.  Feel free to offer ideas in the comment section below!

Four young women on a mission (UK) 2d



27 thoughts on “Four young women with Union Jack

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  1. I think they are suffragettes. The lady outermost left looks very confident, as if she just ‘knows’ she’s doing the right thing. The younger lady next to her looks scared – she feels she should, she wants to, but she doesn’t ‘own’ her action like the others. Could she be the younger sister of the lady on the left? There is a physical resemblance and they stand literally close together.

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    1. I wondered the same thing! But if you look very closely–maybe try tilting your screen–you should just be able to see the areas where the blue was. I don’t know why it faded. The whole photo turned unusually dark (toned) with age, while the blue just disappeared. Some photos age well and some don’t. Thanks for commenting! By the way, I’ve created a new “Women’s History” category and added this photo to it, along with a dozen past posts. A few of the choices were subjective–I probably just like them a lot.

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  2. I hope you don’t mind but I just had a quick look at this in photoshop (I won’t keep it!) with the contrast and brightness adjusted and I don’t think that’s a Union Jack. It looks like it should be but even with fading, the parts that should be blue would be darker than the rest and they’re not. I think it’s just their or the photographer’s idea of a fun prop. Apart from that, they may well be suffragettes but I’d have thought if they were that there’d have been some message with them – like a placard or even something printed on the photo. In many senses, rather than being patriotic, it looks like it’s making fun – in which case, it could signify the reverse. (And that bow on it wouldn’t have been regarded as ‘proper’.) I wonder where it was taken?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Food for thought! It came to me from Kettering, but that doesn’t really tell us anything. The flag could be a random prop, but with all the options for props, why choose a flag? I still think it was chosen for political or patriotic reasons. Suffragists (and suffragettes, the more radical group) were big on symbolism, which might explain the bow, if we only knew how to interpret it. Thanks for your input!

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  3. Hi Brad

    The ribbon looks to me to be of more than one colour, so it could be the purple, white and green ribbon of the suffrage movement in the UK. The flag couldn’t be anything other than the Union Jack, given its design and I see no reason why a political symbol, such as the ribbon, shouldn’t have been placed on it. As for the flag possibly being used to make fun, no, no no! These woman are on a serious mission.

    Throwing my two cents worth in again, I don’t see why they would’ve had placards or anything else other than the ribbon. If you look at the photos of suffrage marches, the signs are all professionally made and I imagine would’ve been collected and redistributed for each event to ensure they didn’t just get taken home and forgotten. Most people didn’t have the extra money to buy materials to make their own signs, let alone woman who had to ask for handouts from men if they didn’t work, or were paid such small amounts if they did.

    Great image Brad. Such a shame it faded a bit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You make many good points, Kate, which wouldn’t have occurred to me. We read this photo the same way. I don’t know why it darkened and faded much more than other cabinet cards from the early 20th century. Maybe the photographer used the wrong mix of chemicals or something? I almost didn’t share it because of the poor condition, but the four gals wouldn’t be ignored!

      So, how about a new post from you? You must have a pile of treasures waiting to be shared….

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Indeed, I do, thanks Brad. Just not well enough to cope with the follow-up as much as doing a post. Vestibular migraines are plaguing my life on top of everything else. Nice to be up to reading some blogs, so hopefully I’ll be up to writing soon.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thanks, Kate! I’ve just submitted my grandmother’s graduation portrait to the project, along with a brief story honoring her dedication to higher education. I’ve subscribed to the People’s Picture newsletter to stay abreast of Helen Marshall’s work. Thanks so much for telling us about it!

        Liked by 1 person

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