Iron Jawed Angels, the women’s suffrage movement, and social change

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 3/14/13

Yesterday evening I was among 50+ people who saw the 2004 movie Iron Jawed Angels at West Chester University.

I think even someone who (though everyone should) didn’t care much about the issue–women’s right to vote, and justice in a broader sense–would recognize it as a great movie with compelling acting. It is not at all, as I had expected, a documentary, but a dramatic rendition, a bit in the Lincoln vein, of a period in US history that needs to be remembered for what we can learn from it today.

And at the end of both movies, we have the satisfaction of seeing that rare event of what is know known as the “inside the Beltway power structure” taking a stand for human rights:

Amendment 13 – Slavery Abolished. Ratified 12/6/1865.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction….


Amendment 19 – Women’s Suffrage. Ratified 8/18/1920.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Both amendments were ratified by Congress in a wartime context and (after much agonizing) promoted by presidents who were attacked from all sides and ended up (Lincoln) or incapacitated in office (Wilson). That shows how hard it is to get things done around here!

Many people see US history as some sort of inevitable advance of progress. But in this country, women won the national right to vote (after success in about half of the then states) not just by hard work and political organizing but by sacrificing personal lives, picketing, and suffering antagonism and physical attack from bystanders, police, and prison guards.

Yes, they were sent to prison for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech and peaceful assembly….

continue reading and see links at Politics: A View from West Chester


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Filed under Nathaniel Smith, Voting rights, Women's Issues

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