Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Iron Jawed Angels
I watched this movie on and I think by HBO called the ‘Iron-Jawed Angels’. I was so thrilled to be seeing this film that I forgot to have dinner. The movie started in 1912, and captures the struggles of Alice Paul and the passage of the 19th Amendment (woman suffrage) to the U.S. Constitution.
Alice Paul was chair of a major committee (congressional) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) within a year, in her mid-twenties, but a year later (1913) Alice Paul and others withdrew from the NAWSA to form the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. This organization evolved into the National Woman's Party in 1917, and Alice Paul's leadership was key to this organization's founding and future. Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party emphasized working for a federal constitutional amendment for suffrage. Their position was at odds with the position of the NAWSA, headed by Carrie Chapman Catt, which was to work state-by-state as well as at the federal level.
Despite the often strong acrimony between the National Woman's Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, it's probably fair to say (in retrospect) that the two groups' tactics complemented each other: the NAWSA's taking more deliberate action to win suffrage in elections meant that more politicians at the federal level had a stake in keeping women voters happy, and the NWP's militant stands kept the issue at the forefront of the political world.
In 1913 Paul joined with Lucy Burns to form the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage (CUWS) and attempted to introduce the militant methods used by the Women's Social and Political Union in Britain. This included organizing huge demonstrations and the daily picketing of the White House. After the United States joined the First World War, Paul was continually assaulted by patriotic male bystanders, while picketing outside the White House. In October, 1917, Paul was arrested and imprisoned for seven months. Paul went on hunger strike and was released from prison. In January, 1918, Woodrow Wilson announced that women's suffrage was urgently needed as a "war measure". However, it was not until 1920 that the 19th Amendment secured the vote for women. Iron Jawed Angels, inspired by a pivotal chapter in American history. Hilary Swank plays Alice Paul, an American feminist who risked her life to fight for women's citizenship and the right to vote. She founded the separatist National Woman's Party and wrote the first equal rights amendment to be presented before Congress. Together with social reformer Lucy Burns (Frances O'Connor), Paul struggled against conservative forces in order to pass the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States. One of their first actions was a parade on President Woodrow Wilson's (Bob Gunton) inauguration day. The suffragettes also encountered opposition from the old guard of the National American Women's Suffrage Association, Carrie Chapman Catt (Angelica Huston). The activists get arrested and go on a well-publicized hunger strike, where their refusal to eat earns them the title of "the iron-jawed angels." Although the protagonists have different personalities and backgrounds - Alice is a Quaker and Lucy an Irish Brooklynite - they are united in their fierce devotion to women's suffrage. In a country dominated by chauvinism, this is no easy fight, as the women and their volunteers clash with older, conservative activists, particularly Carrie Chapman Catt. They also battle public opinion in a tumultuous time of war, not to mention the most powerful men in the country, including President Woodrow Wilson (Bob Gunton). Along the way, sacrifices are made: Alice gives up a chance for love, and colleague Inez Mulholland (Julia Ormond) gives up her life.