Photography: Arms and the woman, resisting the imperialist aggressor

Mike Higgins
Sunday 23 October 2011 04:46

Today's stirring portrait from 1901 marks day two of The Independent's photographic history of the 20th century. As part of Photo 98 - The Year of Photography and Electronic Image, The Independent has been given exclusive access to the Hulton Getty Picture Library to celebrate every year from 1900 to 1998 with a photograph that encapsulates the spirit of the age.

1901 was notable for the achievements of what Alan Partridge would call "feisty ladies" such as Mrs Otto Krantz (above) and the maltreatment meted out to them. An Ann Taylor pitched herself over Niagara Falls in a padded barrel in order, she later said, to win some notoriety and pay off the mortgage, and in Macclesfield a female surgeon resigned in disgust at the behaviour of her male colleagues who refused to work with a woman.

The year opened with the death of Queen Victoria, whose rule of South Africa Mrs Krantz fiercely opposed, fighting at her husband's side at Elandslaagte and the Tulega River against British forces. The heavily outnumbered Boer farmers enlisted anyone able to hold a rifle. However, their guerrilla resistance against the British began to crumble in 1901 and in August the Boer commander, De Villiers, surrendered.

As Boer farms fell into enemy hands, Lord Kitchener's concentration camps, swamped with the wives, children and servants of Boer homesteads, proved dangerously inadequate. Under pressure from the international community and opposition in the House of Commons, the British Government pledged in April that the South Africa High Commissioner would give the welfare of women and children held in the camps his personal attention. By the end of the year a measles epidemic and the camps' generally insanitary conditions were claiming up to one in every three of the 77,000 imprisoned Boers, while no figures were recorded for the mortality rate of the 22,000 non-white inmates.

Mike Higgins

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