Monday, September 3, 2007

Ahh. Back When Feminism Was Cool

I've been sick all weekend, bound to the couch with a box of tissues, a stack of books, and the remote control. HBO was showing a slew of historical movies, like JFK with Kevin Costner, about the investigation lead by D.A. Jim Garrison to uncover the conspiracy to assassinate the President and Cry Freedom with Denzel Washington about apartheid in South Africa. Since I was on a historical kick, I popped in one of my very favorite and semi-obscure movies: Iron Jawed Angels. The film is based on the true story of suffrage-activists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, who campaigned for a federal amendment to the constitution, granting women the right to vote during the 1910s.


I discovered this movie last year when I had to watch it for my American History class. We were studying the over 60-year long suffrage movement, led by three generations of very diverse feminists. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were third generation feminists: bold, educated, and idealistic, dedicated to a federal amendment to put an end to the injustice of 20 million women who were denied self-government and were still taxed without representation. Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and other like them rejected the the slow and tiresome task of state by state campaigns, which after 60 years, only produced 9 states that allowed women to vote. I love this film because it tells a true story, of which not many people are aware. Sure, most people know women won the right to vote in 1919, but how we got there is a little sketchy.

Besides the creation of three sub-plot characters, the movie maintains a high level of fidelity to the historical account. Every character, demonstration, protest, parade, arrest, presidential speech, and newspaper article depicted are real, right down to the very words on the signs that suffragists held up as they protested. I've watched this movie several times with different people and every time a certain part arrives, everyone asks, "Did that really happen?!" And that's why this movie is important to watch: 1919 was less than 100 years ago, and to realize the hardships women endured because they wanted to vote is an important and shocking part of our history. The first time I watched this film, it made me want to go out and vote in every election available. Voting is a right I have taken for granted because I did not realize how much women had to sacrifice and struggle to get it.

Being this is an HBO film, there is some bizarre cinematography that I could have done without. The film makers mix contemporary music into the film, which I enjoy, but others have said it distracts from the time-period. The first half of the film tends to be a little slow, but once World War I breaks out, the history comes out in full force.

WARNING: For the sensitive crowd, there is one inappropriate scene with Hillary Swank in a bath tub. There is no nudity, you only can see her face and legs. However, this montage is unimportant to the rest of the film and if you find it offensive, just fast forward when you hear the Sarah McLachlan song start to play and you will not miss a thing. :)

Anyway, once again, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and felt inspired by the courage of these women to persevere for what they believed in. It's also a good reminder that it only takes a few dedicated people to change the course of history.



Here is a photo from one of the protest signs in the movie and the corresponding one from real life:
Here is the trailer for the movie:

8 comments:

Tilly said...

I didn't know the women's suffrage movement went on for over 60 years! You've perked my interest, now I'll have to watch and see how it all came about!

Julie said...

I took a Women history class in college and learned about Alice Paul and the suffrage movement. I was completely shocked by the events that lead up to women finally getting the right to vote. I had no idea a movie was made about it. I can't wait to watch! Thanks for the review.

Peter said...

I caught this film on HBO a couple of years ago. It did a fantastic job of contrasting the older generation of suffragists and the younger generation that revived the movement for women voting rights. The movie also didn't fall prey to modern feministic attitudes of "to be a feminist, you have to be anti-men." Most of the women in this era were supported by the church (there were some fringe fanatics) and were extremely pro-family, which is precisely why they believed their voice was necessary in the "American family"- to make it balanced and complete. Good pick.

Jane-Anne said...

I LOVE your blog!! I stop by and read it about once a week and every time I feel like pumping my arm in the air and shouting, "YOU GO, GIRL!!" You speak the truth in love and with such wisdom!

One thing though -- have you ever thought of changing the colors? It's really hard for me to read for any length of time. Maybe I should just stop by more often! :)

Tia Lynn said...

Hey Jane! Thanks for reading sister and for the kind words. Is it the colors or the size of the font that give your trouble? I was considering making the font bigger...but then people would really be able to recognize my long-windedness! :)I'll see what I can do.

Wild Flower said...

Oh barf. Women should be bare-foot and pregnant and let their husbands do the voting for them! :)

Tilly said...

I rented it last night. Those women sure were gutsy referring to President Wilson as Kaiser! I like how most of their signs were all quotes from President Wilson. They used his own words and ideals against him. Very savvy, indeed.

Marta said...

I absolutely love this movie!!