What Women Want, They Get
Women used to be thought of as the stay at home mother by men. She was supposed to take care of the children and take care of the home. Seeing a woman in the workforce was desirable as long as she had an education. Women were seen working in factories or as teachers but they had no say in the government. Thanks to a few women dedicated to making a difference, women have become more independent and now have a say in the government if they choose too. The movie Iron Jawed Angels depicts a group of women who wanted women to have a voice in politics. First thing they had to do was get women the right to vote.
Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were the two leaders of the NWP (National Woman's Party). The two women are an inspiration to others. They stood up for how they felt, and were not going to let anyone get in their way. They felt so strongly about women's rights that they got other women involved. These women went out in crowds and handed fliers to strangers, they held a parade the day of President Wilson's inauguration. They did not care whom they angered or how far they had to go to get what they wanted.
There were times that the women even risked their lives. Inez Milholland, the "woman on the horse," she new that she was ill and she did not want to go on a cross-country speaking tour, because she was afraid that she too tired and would not make it. Paul encouraged her and was able to change her mind. Milholland decided not to let her illness keep her from demonstrating how she felt about women's rights. While on the tour, Milholland collapses during one her speaks and dies. Alice Paul and the other NWP members were arrested and charged with "obstructing traffic" even though their picket line was on the sidewalk. Since the women refused to pay the fine, the women were sentenced to sixty days in prison. Paul and the other women that were imprisoned also risked their lives by going on a hunger strike. They were literally starving.
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How the Fight was Won
The US women’s suffrage movement can be understood using a few different sociological perspectives. In Iron Jawed Angels, a movie about the US women’s suffrage movement, the main characters Alice Paul and Lucy Burns had the ability to use political opportunities and mobilize resources available to them in order to excel. Some of the political opportunities presented to the women’s suffrage movement include elite allies, weaknesses in the state and access to authorities. They also had access to funding, people power, personnel with experience, and ability to reframe how the public perceived them. With opportunities like these the suffrage movement was bound to succeed.
To being with, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns have Carrie Catt, the head of NAWSA, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, as a political elite. Although Carrie Catt gives them the opportunity to have their own office to help expand the suffrage movement, she also tries to repress them. Carrie Catt implies that the women are spending funds irresponsibly and have nothing to show for their spending and forces them to give up funding they receive. Alice refuses to take the back seat and splits away from NAWSA and begins the NWP, National Woman’s Party. Alice and Lucy also meet and befriend a cartoonist who works for the Washington Post, a newspaper that was very democratic at the time. They use him as a political ally due to his ties to the Washington Post newspaper. He is able to post cartoons of both a woman heroine on horse as well as the National Woman’s Party logo in the newspaper. With the cartoonist in their social network, the women’s suffrage movement was able to use the media to let the nation know of the oppression of women and their fight for their rights to vote.
In order to receive enough attention and make the women’s suffrage movement known, Alice and Lucy had to come up with new and different repertoire of protest and tactics. The women.
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The movie begins with Alice Paul and her friend, Lucy Burns, both are women suffrage activists who just arrived from London, meeting Carrie Chapman Catta and Anna Howard, leaders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in Philadelphia, 1912. Alice and Lucy are young educated woman possessing high energy while Catt and Howard are more conservative. In the meeting, Alice and Lucy express their idea of fighting for constitutional amendment enfranchising women while elder activists prefer state-by-state campaign. Alice and Lucy also argue that the activists should seek for more creative means to gain public attention to the cause of women suffrage such as parade during the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson.
However, the elder activists fear the possibility of the young activists to employ militant means once used in England. They argue such methods will be counterproductive to the fight for woman suffrage as it will reduce public sympathy and the support of the ruling party, the Democrats. Alice assures that she can guarantee she will not break any law upon marching the parade. Finally Alice and Lucy are permitted to organize a parade and to take over NAWSA’s Washington D.C. committee, provided they raise their own fund.
Soon after moving to D.C. they begin preparing their parade by raising funds and recruiting volunteers, including Alice’s college friend Mabel Vernon, a Polish factory worker Ruza Wenclawska, and a social worker Doris Stevens. The young activists begin raising funds in a party at an art gallery, where they meet Inez Milholland, a labor lawyer, and convince her to serve as a figurehead for the parade. They also meet a Washington newspaper political cartoonist, Ben Weissman, with whom Alice has a crush.
The day of the parade finally arrives. The activists march down the Pennsylvania Avenue. The public gives various responses to the parade as women and children mostly give sympathy while many men mock them. Indeed, the parade draws much of public attention as President Wilson is welcomed only by few crowds since most people prefer watching the parade. However, the parade turns into a riot when some men attack the activists. The police do not do much to prevent the attack and some activists are injured because of the attack.
Alice and other young activists are pleased with the resulting front page publicity and, despite the objection of the elder activists, seek to press their advantage by leading a delegation to see President Wilson. Unfortunately, President Wilson does not support the cause, arguing that other issues such as currency revision and tariff reform take precedence over women suffrage. The activists begin lobbying the members of the Congress to get the cause of women suffrage on the floor but it does not succeed in the committee.
Considering all the process taken, Alice thinks that they should form a separate committee dedicated to amendment of the Constitution. The committee, which is named Congressional Union, starts publishing newspaper and raising funds. Their aspiration is to boycott President Wilson in the next election since he is reluctant to support the amendment. Such a stance clearly infuriates the elder activists since they consider President Wilson as an ally and take ‘peaceful method’ to lobby him. The relationship becomes even worse since Congressional Union take some of important sponsors of NAWSA.
The relationship between the elder and the young activists deteriorates when in a meeting Catt questions why the fund raised by the Congressional Union is not forwarded to the NAWSA treasurer. Catt then calls for a NAWSA board investigation into the expenditure of the union. As a result, Alice and Lucy leave the organization and form the National Woman’s Party (NWP), which opposes any political candidates who refuse to support the proposed constitutional amendment.
The Party employs various methods to fight for its cause such as disrupting President Wilson’s speech in the Congress and speaking tour in several states. Sadly Inez died during one of her speeches and Alice feels that she is to blame for it. Alice down for a while but her mother and Lucy strengthen her and her spirit revives.
In January 1917, the members of the party begin standing at fence of the White House with banner stating their demand for constitutional amendment. The picket draws much of public attention but the NAWSA disagrees with such a method. Catt even states in a NAWSA meeting that the NWP is “the single greatest obstacle to the suffrage amendment.”
The NWP keeps doing the picket even when the United States declares war against Germany in the World War I, despite objections from some of its members. The public opinion turns against the suffragists as they consider protesting the President for another cause in war time is ‘unpatriotic’. Some activists are even arrested in charge of obstructing traffic, even though they stand on the sidewalk.
The arrested activists are put on trial and they refuse to pay a fine for a crime they consider not commit and therefore they are sentenced to sixty days in Occoquan, a woman prison in Virginia. In spite of the arrest of their partners, some other activists keep doing the picket, resulting in their being arrested by the police as well. In the prison, the activists go on hunger strike and some of them are forced fed by the prison officers.
Meanwhile, Catt frequently meets President Wilson asking him to support the amendment but he insisted on not supporting it. The news about forced feeding leaks out to the public when Senator Leighton, whose wife is also arrested, makes a public speech informing the suffering of the victims. As a result, the activists gain public sympathy. On the other hand, Catt uses this massive publication to press President Wilson, telling his officer that the news will be exposed to the international world and if he still refuses to take action it will harm his reputation. President Wilson finally makes a speech in the Congress announcing his support for women suffrage. The activists then are released and their crusade for women suffrage continues.
By 1920, 35 states have ratified the amendment, thus one more stated is needed since in order to amend the Constitution, three-forth states are needed to ratify the amendment. Tennessee becomes that state when a member of the Congress makes a surprising decision after receiving a telegram from his mother as he was previously predicted to say “no” but ultimately says “yes” during voting. On August 26, 1920, the Suffrage Amendment finally becomes law.