Photographs Documenting the Struggle for Women’s Suffrage Are Reimagined in Full Color

Colorizer Tom Marshall’s deft touch brings new life to 100-year-old photographs

Emmeline Pankhurst, circa 1913. Prankhurst, a founded the Women's Social and Political Union, a group of suffragettes who used militant tactics to fight for their right to vote. colorized by Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2018
The suffragettes of the WSPU's radical methods were in contrast to the earlier approach of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. President of the NUWSS, Millicent Fawcett believed in peaceful protest. She "wrote thousands of letters and campaigned tirelessly for the rights of women throughout her life," Marshall writes. colorized by Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2018
Emmeline Pankhurst is arrested by Superintendent Rolfe outside Buckingham Palace, while trying to present a petition to HM King George V in May 1914. She was imprisoned many times. colorized by Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2018
Suffragette Mabel Capper was arrested in 1912. Here she wears the colors of the WSPU, with a purple, white and green medal ribbon. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, editor of Votes for Women, a weekly newspaper, wrote, 'Purple as everyone knows is the royal color, it stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity. White stands for purity in private and public life... Green is the color of hope and the emblem of spring.' colorized by Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2018
Founders of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst. The group's motto was "deeds, not words," Marshall writes in his blog. colorized by Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2018
In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst, pictured here with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, broke from the NUWSS to found the WSPU and and use more militant actions. The suffragettes courted newspaper headlines with bold action and as a result are perhaps better remembered today than the suffragists, Randall writes. colorized by Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2018
A woman looks through a broken window at Holloway Prison in London, were imprisoned suffragettes on hunger strikes were force fed. Two explosions originating from a nearby suffragette safe house damaged the prison wall and broke the window seen here in 1913. colorized by Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2018
During the war, the movement changed. The WSPU halted their actions and supported the war. Many women worked to aid the war effort. More than million women worked in the munitions factories like that pictured here. Others became railway guards, ticket collectors, postal works, police and firefighters, Marshall writes. colorized by Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2018

This week marks 100 years since an act of Parliament granted women over the age of 30 in the United Kingdom the ability to vote. To herald this significant moment in women's suffrage, photo colouriser and restorer Tom Marshall decided to bring eight black-and-white photos of women fighting for their rights into color. 

"I've colourised these photos from the early 20th century to show how much of a struggle it was for the women then to get where they are today," Marshall writes in his blog.

Marshall's work offers a unique view into a time of change. In the photos, leaders of the suffrage movement pose for the camera. Suffragettes (who distinguished themselves from the broader label of suffragists by their willingness to take militant action) are arrested. A woman looks through a broken window at Holloway prison (where some 300 Suffragettes were jailed and force-fed) after an explosion of two bombs went off, an attempt by Suffragettes to blow up part of the jail's southeast wall.

Marshall, like many modern colorizers, uses digital tools to achieve his results. He writes that for family photos he uses colors suggested by his client. For images where the colors aren't known — or for historical photographs — he relies on research for accuracy and his best judgement. (The subjects he’s colorized in the past include sociologist and photographer Lewis Wickes Hine's series documenting child labor during the early 20th century and images from American Prohibition.)

Since the invention of photography, people have added color to make their black and white images carry the hues and shades of real life. But it took decades of development before commercially viable color film came to market. That leaves troves of old photographs in sepia and black and white, that feel one step further removed from reality. With a skilled colorizer's work, those photographs can pop into startlingly lifelike color. The effect can be as if someone reached back and pulled the photo's subjects through the haze of time.

But colorizing remains a somewhat controversial topic. While critics feel that historical photos should be left alone, others see colorization as an art form of its own, explains Dunja Djudjic for DIY Photography.

The photos Marshall colorizes famously capture a moment on the cusp of the 1918 Representation of the People Act. The legislation was carefully crafted so that women did not suddenly become the majority of the electorate, as the U.K. Parliament's own website candidly stated today

The imperfect act gave women the right to vote, mollifying some activists, but the legislation continued to limit women. Many who worked in field and munition factories during the war were still younger than 30. They could not vote. Women who lived in rented rooms or homes and therefore didn't own property also couldn't vote.

Following these photographs, it would take another decade and change until the Representation of the People Act of 1928 was passed and women in the U.K. were finally granted suffrage equal to men.

H/T Mimi Launder at

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