Iron Jawed Angels

March 25, 2009
By Lauren Warner BRONZE, Weston, Massachusetts
Lauren Warner BRONZE, Weston, Massachusetts
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

“Iron Jawed Angels” focuses in on perhaps, one of the most groundbreaking periods of time for women across the country in the 20th century. 1919 was a time when women like Alice Paul, a radical advocate for women's' suffrage, would no longer stand for oppression simply because they were of a gender class that had long been subordinate to men. The movie not only elaborately depicts Alice Paul's campaign to achieve suffrage, but also who she was as a person. Her vigorous and determined personality is displayed throughout her constant protest. The movies begins with an introduction of Paul as an ordinary young women, yet one with miraculous confidence and drive to succeed. She organizes daring protests and movements throughout the movie, until in the end, she and her followers attain suffrage. Not only does Paul organize a parade to promote suffrage, as well as picket outside the white house, even when the country goes to war, but she also formally creates the National Woman's Party. When she establishes this organization, Paul and her followers ultimately break from the other main women's rights program at the time, the National Women's' Suffrage Association headed by Carrie Catt, a woman portrayed as being quite stringent and reluctant to give in to Alice Paul's approach to gaining suffrage. It becomes clear in the movie that while the NWSA simply wanted protectorate laws and did not feel such an intense drive to push for suffrage, Alice Paul and her followers did possess this passionate determination to gain suffrage as soon as possible. After Paul splits from the NWSA and forms her own party, she and her supporters begin to take radical measures in their attempt to win suffrage, such as picketing a war time president, resulting in their arrests While imprisoned, Paul goes on a hunger strike as an act of defiance, where some other women begin to follow, who take the pains of a feeding tube, not willing to give up until they receive the voting rights they demand. In the end, President Wilson seems to come to the realization that the progress the country has made, especially concerning war aid would not have been possible without the help of women. With this realization, Wilson grants women the right to vote, and Paul and her supporters rejoice upon accomplishing their original goal after a long and hard, but worthwhile struggle.

While it seems like a superfluous amount of historical content is included in the movie, the film is not the least bit overwhelming or boring, but rather quite successful in portraying the women's' struggle to receive the right to vote in a captivating way. Hilary Swank effectively communicates the animated and relentless attitude Alice Paul encompassed, and the actress who plays Carrie Catt successfully conveys the viewpoint of the other women's' party. More so, the conflict between Paul and Catt mirrors what happened in the actual time period to quite an accurate extent. The movie seems to include more than just the basic facts about the women's' rights movement, but also the emotions involved. Audience members who view the disappointment and concern of Paul and her supporters when the country goes to war will be able to emphasize and also surely feel a personal letdown when the women realize they will have to struggle harder than ever to pursue their fight for rights. Also, the sheer honesty of the film, such as the shocking image of Paul being force fed with a feeding tube, displays just how harshly women were dealt with for petitioning for a civil right that most everyone has today. In this respect, the movie makes the audience think about just how significant a movement the women's' fight for suffrage truly was, and how it changed society, causing the audience to appreciate the women's' struggle to a far greater extent than before.
“Iron Jawed Angels” is also, not only both historically sufficient and appealing to the audience, but also makes direct connections to what was actually happening during the time period the movie takes place in. Perhaps one of the most prominent connections that can be made is to the division of the women's' party that occurred, forming the NWSA and the NWP. This schism is represented accurately in the movie, where Catt's desire for protectorate laws opposes Paul's determination to take radical measures to achieve suffrage. Although the film does not discuss the Equal Rights Amendment, this was also one of the major aspects of the time period in which Paul would be involved, again showing her desire to make women equal to men, not just protect them against men. The movie also touches upon issues of race, and how with the eventual granting of suffrage towards women, the country was still not yet fully equal. In the beginning of the movie, when the African American women tells Paul she would like to participate in the parade, Paul rejects her proposal, explaining that they cannot afford to lose the support of the South. This connects directly to how women were “told to wait their turn” when African American men were fighting for the vote at the same time, where African American men received it first, because people thought battling for both causes would compromise both the women's' chance and the African Americans' chance to succeed in receiving rights. Thus, just as women were held off at first, so too were African American women, showing how the country was still unlevel in terms of its distribution of political rights. Another clear relation to the time period was Wilson and the war. The film displays how the war affected the women's protests, but also how their assistance in the war effort was one of the main factors in Wilson's decision to grant them the vote. He explains that the country would not have progressed to where it was without women, signaling that they are just as important as men, and he thus grants them the vote. This change in perspective and realization pushed the country towards further opening the vote and including a larger diversity of groups. Thus, the movie is abundant with historical information and presents it in an interesting way, but also allows audience members to make connections between its plot and actual events that occurred in the past.

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This article has 1 comment.

on May. 5 2009 at 11:06 pm
Claire Gallo BRONZE, Safety Harbor, Florida
3 articles 0 photos 5 comments
i really enjoyed this movie. im glad to see you chose to review it. a very inspiring story.

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