Essay on Iron Jawed Angels: The Fight for Women's Voting Rights

Published: 2023-11-05
Essay on Iron Jawed Angels: The Fight for Women's Voting Rights
Essay type:  Analytical essays
Categories:  Women Movie Civil rights
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1174 words
10 min read

“Iron Jawed Angels” is a drama film based on American history directed by Katja Von Garnier, a German filmmaker. The film was released in 2003 for theatres and in 2004 for streaming (Katja). The film tells the story of a group of young women determined to fight for American women's rights to vote. The group was led by Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns (Frances O'Connor), her friend. The two teamed up with Julia Ormond, Laura Fraser, Molly Parke, Brooke Smith, and Vera Farmiga. The film is based on a true story of the women’s suffrage movement of 1917.

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Paul and Burns pushed for the amendment to allow women to vote. In 1912 the activists arranged a meeting with Carrie Chapman Catt and Anna Howard of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) formed by Susan and Elizabeth in 1890. While Paul and Burns's approach was to pressure the amendment of the constitution Susan and Elizabeth preferred a state-by-state approach to achieving women's voting rights (Katja). They were, however, allowed to take over the Association’s committee, but they had to source for their funds for their activism events. They were able to recruit several volunteers who helped achieve the objective of the movement.

While sourcing for donations at the art gallery, Paul was able to convince Inez Mulholland (Julia Ormond), a labor lawyer, to play a role in the parade. She also meets Ben Weissman, a political cartoonist for the Washington Newspaper. Romance sparks between Paul and Ben. The parade turned into a riot after hecklers attacked the suffragettes, but they got publicity from the publication on the front page of the Washington Magazine.

Paul asks Weismann to help her in the cause and agrees to go with him on a date, but his coming to the date with his son makes Paul decide that he has to abjure the relationship and devote his absolute attention to the movement (Katja). Paul and Burns later formed the National Woman’s Party (NWP) after NAWSA ordered the investigation of their expenditure. The party opposes any candidate who does not pledge for the amendment of the constitution to allow women to vote. It is in this spirit that they interrupt President Wilson's speech and protests. Senator Leighton discontinues his wife's allowance after discovering he has donated to the Association and objects to her involvement in the movement. However, his wife makes a bold move and walks out of her husband to support the movement's cause.

While they were locked up in Occoquan Women’s prison for obstruction of traffic, Paul and the other activists went on an anger strike (Katja). They had refused to pay fines as they had not committed any crime, thus spending sixty days behind bars. The women were forcefully fed a move that triggered public sympathy. Catt, who had earlier asked for the investigation of Paul and Burns' expenditure, helped in the release of the Suffragettes from prison by asking President Willson to support the constitutional amendment.

The movement was so important in American history as the women fought and won for suffrage. On 18th August 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, allowing women to vote. The amendment had been brought to the Senate in June 1919 by was abandoned by the Southern Democrats parliament. In 1920 37 Republican Senators and 19 democrats voted for the ratification against 25 who opposed the ratification (Katja). In November, more than 8 million women voted for the first time.

The film Iron Jawed Angels represents challenges faced by minority groups while fighting to be recognized by majority groups who believe that majority groups need to have their way. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were focused on their goal of fighting for the right of women to vote a fact that was not supported by their male counterparts (Katja). The state and the men believed that women were the minority groups whose role was to support men; hence they did not deserve the right to elect their leaders. Minority groups have to do extraordinary things for them to be heard and their views to be considered by the majority. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns matched during the inauguration of President Wilson, and they ended up being arrested and prosecuted for obstruction of traffic crime.

I have learned the importance of being persistent in the things they fight for and believe in, fighting for one's rights and beliefs, and convincing other people about the idea. Being persistent gives the opposing side the opportunity to think and decide on the merits and demerits of the idea the minority groups are fighting for (Holcomb 19). The majority might not understand the facts of the idea that the minority is fighting for. The women in the United States were able to fight for the right to vote; their persistence and determination achieved the desired results of being given the right to their leaders. Losing hope should not be an option for people who want to bring change against an idea that is opposed by the majority.

The National American Woman Suffrage Association was majorly opposed by the political class who feared that allowing women to vote was a threat to their political positions because the women would influence the people who voted to political positions (Holcomb 11). There are also fears that women would be allowed to vie for political positions, and hence they would advocate for policies that favor women more. The fear of the unknown makes people oppose the things they do not know of their outcomes. My take is that women should have been given the right to vote because they are equal human beings to men; hence they deserve equal treatment. The policies made by elected leaders affect the women; hence having a representation helps in adding their voices ad views.

The documentary seems to be biased because it talks more about the National American Woman Suffrage Association without giving proper ideas about why women were not given the right to vote. Being biased denied the opposing side the opportunity to express themselves why they did not want women to participate in elections (Katja). The voices of men who believed that women should not vote were left out in the documentary. I agree with the idea that all people are equal and need to be treated equally with equal rights and freedoms. The argument that women would bring change in leadership through the election is the most compelling because all ideas need to be considered when making decisions.

The documentary represents the view of the majority of women who participated in the fight for equality in voting. The documentary highlights key events that happened in the struggle of women to fight for voting rights. The fight for voting rights by women was challenging, and many women got arrested and tortured during the struggle.

Works Cited

Holcomb, Julie. "American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA)." Women's Suffrage: The Complete Guide to the 19th Amendment (2020): 11.

Katja Von Garnier. Iron Jawed Angels. 2004, Accessed 9 Aug 2020.

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Essay on Iron Jawed Angels: The Fight for Women's Voting Rights. (2023, Nov 05). Retrieved from

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