Showing posts with label lucy burns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lucy burns. Show all posts

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Suffragettes

When I was a child, my image of the early 20th century Suffragettes was based on watching Glynis Johns as Mrs. Banks in the 1965 movie "Mary Poppins."

In other words, they were silly, blowsy middle aged ladies in corsets and ridiculous hats, strutting around, smashing windows, chaining themselves to iron gates, and blithely neglecting their domestic responsibilities.  (Never fear, by the end of "Mary Poppins", Mrs. Banks has seen the error of her ways.)

However, the resurgence of the New Misogynists -- many of whom would frankly like to return to a pre-suffrage America -- has made me more curious about, and appreciative of, the ladies of the Suffrage Movement. 

You can watch Hilary Swank and Frances O'Connor in an HBO movie, Iron Jawed Angels", playing the respective roles of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.

By the end of the film, both women have endured relentless mockery, betrayal by the competing "old guard" women's party, the corruption of law enforcement and congress, incarceration as political prisoners, beatings and torture. The scenes depicting forced feedings are particularly horrifying.  Ultimately, of course, Paul and the single plank National Woman's Party triumphed:  The 19th Amendment granted American women the right to vote in 1920.  

"Iron Jawed Angels" is not a great film.  I must admit I'm not a huge fan of Swank's onscreen persona; she always reminds me of a camp counselor with her toothy grin and endless, intense enthusiasm.  I'm also getting a bit tired of seeing Anjelica Huston cast as "the villainess."  And I found the use of contemporary songs in the sound track a distracting anachronism.  There is an entirely unnecessary "love interest" of course -- I guess so the audience won't assume Burns and Paul, quel horreur, were lesbian lovers?  However, the movie is fairly unique in its telling of an important and seldom-taught piece of history, and it reminds those of us who have been following the New Misogynists what a return to "the good old days" would look like.