By the 1900s, women had been campaigning for the right to vote for nearly half a century. In 1903, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded in Manchester, breathing new life into the suffragette movement and fighting for the rights of all women, regardless of their nationality.
Although British women were perceived as the weaker sex, they were also labelled as morally superior to men, making them the logical choice to raise children and care for the home. Inevitably, feminists were accused of neglecting their nurturing duties during their public struggle for equality. Their response to this was to find a cause that would emphasise their moral high ground, giving them a plausible reason to fight for their rights.
Asian women filled this niche.
During this tumultuous time and at the height of British colonisation, many Asian women found themselves adrift within British society. Most had entered the country on ships employed by English families as ayahs (nannies) and, once they’d served their few weeks at sea, were dismissed, expected to survive on their own. Securing passage back to India was seasonal and often difficult especially during wartime, leaving hundreds of young women stranded far from home.
Many British high society feminists voiced concerns for their Indian sisters, regarding them as passive victims. Their mission was to rescue these perceived objects of pity and misfortune. This concept was not limited to the stranded ayahs in Britain but was generalised to include the oppressed women still in Asia.
A gradual change in this compassionate but superior attitude came about as Asian women grew stronger and more outspoken, not only in Britain but also in India. By 1905, Asian women were emerging to show public support of various political activities and the exploitation of women and their traditional roles were challenged.
The photography of William Eggleston
A native Southerner raised on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta, Eggleston has created a singular portrait of his native South since the late 1960s. After discovering photography in the early 1960s, he abandoned a traditional education and instead learned from photographically illustrated books by Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Frank. Although he began his career making black-and-white images, he soon abandoned them to experiment with color technology to record experiences in more sensual and accurate terms at a time when color photography was largely confined to commercial advertising. In 1976 with the support of John Szarkowski, the influential photography historian, critic, and curator, Eggleston mounted “Color Photographs” a now famous exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. William Eggleston’s Guide , in which Szarkowski called Eggleston’s photographs “perfect,” accompanied this groundbreaking one-person show that established his reputation as a pioneer of color photography. His subjects were mundane, everyday, often trivial, so that the real subject was seen to be color itself. These images helped establish Eggleston as one of the first non-commercial photographers working in color and inspired a new generation of photographers, as well as filmmakers.
Eggleston has published his work extensively. He continues to live and work in Memphis, and travels considerably for photographic projects. (x)