Suffragette: A Mighty Fight for the Right to Vote
In the newly released movie Suffragette, we observe as women fight for voting rights in 1912 Britain. We cringe when these women are made to feel invisible.
In one confrontation, the key police inspector informs female character Maud Watts, “You are nothing to the world.”
Played by Carey Mulligan, Maud is a young wife and mother in deplorable working conditions–a laundry near the home she shares with her husband and son. Within these meager surroundings, she must endure a loveless marriage and a sinister boss. We follow her daily struggles as she becomes absorbed, originally out of curiosity, in a battle for respect and equality.
Meryl Steep plays the iconic role of Emmeline Pankhurst, the “rebel with a cause,” whose words move others to eventually change history. The women who follow her message must convene in darkness and fear. The scenes are gritty and brutal—these women will lose the jobs, their children, and even their own lives.
When Maud initially is pressed into facing lawmakers to ask for equality, she is fearful and timid. After a series of attacks and arrests, however, she becomes even more determined to become an activist. This involvement means that she will be disgraced both inside the prison walls and outside these walls–by her boss, her neighbors, and her husband. At times, it is difficult to tell which of these prisons is the most demeaning and destructive.
As a woman living in the 21st century, I tend to forget about this period in U.S. history and repeated struggles in countries throughout the world. Only recently have women won this right in some regions: South Africa (1994), Kuwait (2005), United Arab-Emirates (2006), and Saudi Arabia (2011).
Other countries, however, granted this right to women far earlier than the 1920 passage of 19th Amendment in the U.S. New Zealand, Australia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Austria, Germany, and Poland passed legislation as early as 1893. Even Russia beat the U.S. by two years.