It was 90 years ago today…

This is a clip from the movie Iron-Jawed Angels. In it, Hilary Swank plays suffragist Alice Paul who is force-fed through her hunger strike against women being denied the right to vote. This is a tough clip to watch—just a heads up:

This should be a tough clip to watch. Keep in mind that the Miranda Rights that we receive today—“You have the right to remain silent”—was far from being introduced to our legal rights. So imagine being arrested for protesting. In the U.S. Against not being able to vote.

Imagine having no voice in keeping your children in a divorce. Or having your own bank account. Or a right to an education. Traveling on your own. Shopping. Choices about your health care. Getting access to health care. Choosing where to live. What kind of job to have. Choosing the option of working.

I could go on here. Get the picture? All of these things that women take for granted on a daily basis is accessible to us because of these women that fought for our right to vote. That right was given us 90 years ago today when the 19th Amendment was signed into law. Thank you, ladies.

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11 thoughts on “It was 90 years ago today…

  1. It was 90 years ago today?…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  2. Holy @#$%#&*&!!

    Wow. It was one thing to read about this in the Rowe-Finkbeiner piece, but to see it visually portrayed is astounding. Michele, this is just an idea, but maybe we could have an optional viewing session of “Iron Jawed Angels” … meet on a weeknight, watch the movie, and discuss it, or something like that.

    The final few paragraphs of your posts rhetorically reminded me of the reading we did for class on the second day—“A Day Without Feminism.” I’m about to go all Talk and Text: Discourse Analysis on this …

    Both your posts and the reading from “The American Women’s Movement” contain the phrase “imagine this …” Telling the reader to picture these things – or rather to picture not having these rights – is a strategic rhetorical strategy. Exercising control, through the use of an imperative, depicts a tone of informed authority; advising the reader to do certain things allows the author to come across as a reliable source. This command – “imagine this” – also conveys a sense of urgency. This urgency, combined with the use of parallel structure (in the –ing ending verbs), intensifies the authority.

    It’s crazy to think how different everything was 90 years ago. And the Baumgardner and Richards reading was based on the 70’s, only 40 years ago. And yet, we still have so far to go.

  3. Michele says:

    we’ll be watching clips from Iron-Jawed Angels in class this week! If there is enough interest, we’ll show it in full one night on campus. I’ll find a room and be glad to host it!

  4. Erin Meehan says:

    I was very pleased to see this post as I was browsing through the blog this afternoon. After watching a few clips of the movie “Iron Jawed Angels” this morning in class I was disappointed I had previously never heard of or seen the movie. As a pretty well informed person in terms of the entertainment world… I go on perezhilton.com a lot, it seemed strange. Anyway… from the scenes we witnessed in class I was in awe of this second generation, First Wave feminist movement. These women were beautiful intelligent and completely devoted to their belief in a women’s right to vote. Watching Hilary Swank conduct herself and hold her own against the sexual lure of “Mcdreamy” was such a refreshing change from the whiney “Grey’s Anatomy” actress who cannot seem to make up her mind about anything. (I have only scene a couple of seasons but this is what I gathered).
    The following scene was one I was extremely excited to see after reading about the march performed by this group of women in our reading “Suffragist City” by Kristen Rowe-Finkbriner. The small and slightly blurry picture at the top of the reading as well the description articulated in the article of the Inez Milholland Boissevain leading the women on top of horse adorned in a white cape excited my curiosity to see the incident acted out. The scene in the film began ever so beautifully as the woman on the horse in the movie wore angel wings… from our reading this does not seem historically accurate but that is Hollywood. Other women and younger girls most likely my age rode floats dressed all in white, played instruments and Hilary Swank’s character Alice Paul wore a graduation cap and gown. The powerful experience of seeing the march on screen after reading about it in the article just the weekend before made it even more alive and sparked with in me my own drive to try and take more of a stand myself as a young female. Although on a much smaller scale such as backing up my opinion and being more assertive when the boys in my house make too much nose late at night… instead of being afraid they’ll think I am a bitch or it’s my time of the month. I do not know where that prejudice comes from considering throughout my 21 years I have met much more moody men than women….
    Back to the movie. The scene becomes terrifying as the crowd of men began to riot and rebel against the women marching. At that point it becomes almost difficult to watch as the beautiful women are trampled by the drunk and misguided men. The audience is then left with a dusk scene in which banners and instruments lay crumpled and left on the vacant streets. A wave of defeat washed over me but passed quickly as a recognized the great respect I have for those women and all women who risked everything so I could have the freedoms I do today. Let’s just say I walked into the library after class with my head held a little higher! But, then I realized my fly was down….. ;-(

  5. Becky says:

    I remember when this movie first came out. I was 14 and really didn’t pay much attention to it but like the preview merely because I liked the song they used in the clip. After watching this last year in class, we didn’t get to watch the entire thing, so i rented it on my own. I think this movie should be seen by every woman.
    When I turned 18 I did not register to vote. After watching this movie I felt like I had betrayed the women who fought so hard to advance the rights of women, then and now. I can only hope that if I had seen this film in full before I turned 18, that I would have registered to vote and made sure I followed through. It is such a simple act that has so much meaning and hurt behind it. But today, women have the voice and potential that the suffragist women had hoped for.

  6. Emily D'Addario says:

    To start, Hilary Swank fulfills the role of suffragist Alice Paul to perfection. Physically torn yet mentally determined, she defies all social norms and puts her life at risk in an effort at leading this final fight for a constitutional change. It was very alarming but also helpful to have this visual portrayal accompany Rowe-Finkbeiner’s work, “Suffragist City.”

    After reading about the continuous cycle of picketing, getting arrested and thrown in jail, I wondered just how much longer this group of women would push and be willing to undergo. I found it difficult to imagine these young activists bypassing the half-century-old polite, orderly tactics of the first generation of first wavers and the National American Woman Suffrage Association. But Alice Paul proved unstoppable as she led the march through Washington and the hunger strike that quickly gained attention among the prison. It’s inspiring to know this stream of bold, new radicals would do anything it took to demand a woman’s justice recognized by the law. The second generation of first wavers gave the second wave the right to vote and the third wave a developing, influential political voice that is acknowledged today.

    I thought the officer repeating “quiet” as the women sang in unison was the most powerful segment of this clip. They acted as rational creatures. They did not give in or allow for poor treatment, but rather destroyed the officer’s strength of character. In the third minute the momentum picks up as Alice Paul is strapped down to be force-fed. I felt the same sense of defeat here as when the men trampled the beautiful suffrage procession. Fortunately, this clip ends with an American flag waving in the distance. This can be representational of the conclusion to their tireless fight. That finally, Americans are sympathizing for the suffragists who simply wanted to live amongst the democracy that oppressed and neglected them for so long.

  7. Esther Altomare says:

    Prior to taking this women’s studies class I obviously learned about the suffrage movement and thought to have a basic understanding on what went down during the first wave of the feminist movement; however, I couldn’t be more wrong. After viewing a couple of clips from this movie in class the other day I found myself completely in awe over how much these women gave up for this movement. The courage these women possessed is really something to be admired. I can’t help but think about what it would have been like to be a young suffragette. I like to consider myself pretty strong willed and I’d love to think that if I were alive during this era I would be up with these women fighting for the cause; however I just don’t know if I would have had the courage and strength to go through with all that these women went through. Again I’ll never really know what I would have done during this time period and I would love to think I would be with these women fighting. It’s so important that every single American citizen realize how much these women jeopardized to help advance women’s basic human rights.

    Even after reading so much about this movement in classes and whatnot having these images portrayed on screen provides a completely different sensation. Actually having images in your head of scenes such as this really help to bring the message home as to the extreme injustices that occurred during this time period.

  8. Gabrielle Perez says:

    I have a few thoughts as I re-watched this video again. 1) This part is so powerful and yet so frustrating because of how Swank was treated in the end. 2) This is one of the main reasons why I am a WMST major. 3) I love Hillary Swank (but that’s a topic for another day).

    Women in history worked so hard to get to where we are right now. Women such as Alice Paul paved the way for us to enjoy what we have right now. I watched Iron Jawed Angels the year that Obama was running for President and I made sure to register and have my absentee ballot in before the deadline. I wasn’t about to let my right slip out of my fingers. A lot of women don’t realize how much our ancestors worked to get to where we are today, mainly because they weren’t taught about it in school. I remember when I was in HS I simply learned about the Women’s Suffrage Movement and nothing else after that, but after coming to college and watching this video, I appreciate my womanhood so much more.

    I think women should realize what they have is both a right and a privilege due to these women fighting for the rights we have today. Something as simple as voting changes the whole scope of what we need to know as women (and as feminists). This movie is just a small portion of what women have done to pave our roads today.

  9. Courtney Waugh says:

    I was taught a little about the Women’s Suffrage Movement before taking this course however, I am now realizing that I have only a very basic understanding of my own history.
    This movie worked to show women as determined and courageous. The acting within this scene really works to show unwavering women and I love that about this movie. These women are working towards something not even imaginable years before and they will not give up. They will give every piece of themselves and fight to the end to stop the oppression. It is just awesome!

    The 19th amendment was signed 90 years ago

    “A Day Without Feminism” describes the challenges women experienced 40 years ago

    I can only hope that we can continue to work to make as much progress as a society.
    Maybe the term ‘glass ceiling’ and ‘sticky floor’ will no longer be known in years to come because it no longer exists? Wouldn’t that be nice!

  10. Tristan Bartsch says:

    I have seen this movie many times and still cannot bring myself to watch this scene in full. I am commenting now only from my memory of the power and intensity of the whole film. I was fortunate enough to be shown this movie in three different classes in high school. Visualizing the abuse makes the suffragist movement much more real; it is impossible to truly understand and be effected unless the viewer is able to share and experience the movement along with the characters.

    I find the treatment of women during the suffragist movement rather contradictory. While anti-suffragists fight to preserve women as gentle, passive, and rather helpless beings, they treat women as wild beasts; physical threats to humanity. Alice Paul is literally tortured and forced to eat. These women did threaten the structure of society at the time, but never with force or violence. The contradiction lies in their de-womanizing of Alice Paul and other suffragists. Society ceased to look at the suffragist women as women and instead looked at them as wild and untamed threats and savages, and treated them as such. I use the word savage here to emphasize society’s detachment and fear of anything outside social laws. The women’s refusal to succumb or give in to such treatment only reinforced the anger of anti-suffragists, allowing them to detach themselves even further, no longer viewing suffragist women as living, breathing beings. When someone challenges society, they are automatically cast outside of that society, and as demonstrated, no longer “deserve” the fair treatment that is generally socially agreed upon. When these women took chances and raised their voices advocating change to the social system, they stepped out of the protection of what is “normal” and “accepted.” They were no longer “women” according to the social norms. This is what allowed society to treat them so horribly. They were essentially dehumanized.

  11. Tristan Bartsch says:

    I DON’T KNOW WHERE ELSE TO POST THIS soooo…..Here it is.

    Sometimes I struggle with validating the idea of “Women’s studies” in my mind. I am a woman and I know and understand the importance of this subject. When I think and discuss the issues pertaining to the history of women I am incredibly passionate and interested. However, in the modern era that I live, where women have “mostly” equal rights and experiences such as education and job opportunities, I sometimes have a hard time appreciating women’s studies for what it is. I attribute this lack of conviction and commitment to the subject to a social pressure to not feel this way. I view myself as capable, strong, and independent. So why indulge in self-pity through a long and detailed reminiscence of the horrible ways in which women have been treated? I’m fine, right?

    The funny thing is, I immediately want to contradict myself. I would never, for example, tell an African American in an African American studies class that they were self-pitying for learning about both the hardships as well as the accomplishments of their race. So why should I feel bad about indulging in these aspects of the history of my gender?

    This personal struggle and contradiction comes from the fact that I, and other women, have been instructed by society, since the day we were born, to feel inferior; as though the study of our gender is not as valid or necessary as the study of a particular minority or race, or even valid at all. In my own struggle to appreciate women’s studies and truly recognize and be affected by the tribulations and suffering as well as accomplishments of the female sex throughout history, I see a deeply disturbing and socially ingrained tendency to down-play or disregard the history of the Woman’s movement.

    This scares me. I feel as though I should care about these subjects more because I am a woman (and really, everyone should), yet I also feel wrong in caring too much. The American stigma of the “feminist” affects the way I view Women’s studies, as well as the socially accepted idea of what is feminine and woman-like. I find myself between two different places; wanting to feel more passionately, but also partly consciously / partly unconsciously influenced by society’s negative image of what it means to “study women.” I hope that this is something that I will not always struggle with, although it probably will be. But to be conscious of this contradiction within myself is the first step to breaking it down further and understanding it better.

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