The stirring new film Suffragette shows the painful struggle of British women to get the right to vote two years before American women. Though it happened nearly a century ago, women today are still fighting for equal pay and control over their reproductive rights. We think our daughters need to know our right to vote didn’t come without great sacrifice.
Here are 11 reasons your daughter absolutely needs to see Suffragette.
1. 50 Years of ladylike protest failed miserably
The women of England spent half a century peacefully protesting for their right to vote. And no one in the government cared. A new strategy needed to be formed, one that would wake up a nation, and Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) had a plan to shake things up.
2. Women weren’t the only ones denied the right to vote
Prisoners, the mentally ill and the poorest men were also excluded from the parliamentary process, proving that wealthy men had all the power and all the representation.
3. The movement needed London’s spotlight
By 1900, the Women’s Social and Political Union had galvanized women, but few people took notice in the industrial city of Manchester, which was 200 miles north of London. The WSPU moved to London, England’s capital city, ready to wake up the nation and get media coverage.
4. “Words not deeds” slogan often turned violent
Frustrated by their words being ignored for so many years, some suffragettes resorted to blowing up mailboxes with homemade explosives, destroying public property and cutting telegraph wires. Although they wanted a peaceful solution, these women couldn’t wait any longer.
5. Hunger-striking and force-feeding through the nose
Many suffragettes were thrown into jail, even after protesting peacefully. While incarcerated, they would go on hunger strikes. When these were reported in the newspapers, it was seen as an embarrassment by the British government. The prisons ordered the women to be force-fed through a tube that was shoved through the woman’s nose.
6. “Suffragette” was an insult
Coined by the British press, women involved in the women’s suffrage movement were called suffragettes, as if they were some kind of cute little dance troop. But the women took their power back by owning the name and using it as a term of pride.
7. Suffragettes learned jujitsu
Helena Bonham Carter’s character, Edith Ellyn, was partially inspired by a real, diminutive suffragette named Edith Garrud. Less than five feet tall, Garrud taught the other women jujitsu so they could defend themselves against the police, who were known for beating and sexually harassing the female protesters.
8. Helena Bonham Carter makes amends for the past
Helena Bonham Carter’s great-grandfather was Lord Herbert Asquith, the prime minister at the time the suffragettes were struggling. Despite her possibly embarrassing family connection, Bonham Carter was excited to personally make up for Asquith’s lack of foresight by appearing in the movie and proving that positive change is always possible.
9. Some men did support women’s right to vote
While most men at the time felt it was their duty to protect male privilege, many men protested with the women, went to jail and also went on hunger strikes.
10. Carey Mulligan’s moving performance
Mulligan plays Maud Watts, a lower-class wife and mother who began working in a factory at the age of 14. At first, she’s reluctant to stand with the other suffragettes, but soon she sees that women must overcome their powerless situation. As a result of her bold actions, she loses her husband and son. It’s a terrible price to pay, but it was women like Maud who paved the way for the rights many of us take for granted every day.
11. The upcoming 2016 presidential election
The 2016 election is going to be very interesting. Not only is a woman running for president, but we also have some male candidates who don’t seem to take women’s issues seriously — and some even seem to objectify women in the media. But no matter which candidate a woman votes for, we urge women everywhere to get to the polls in 2016. We owe it to the women who fiercely fought for our rights.
Suffragette opens today.