‘Suffragette’ Shows Voting Rights Struggle

‘Suffragette’ Shows Voting Rights Struggle

Award winning movie, “Suffragette,” hit the Watkins Auditorium screen, Monday, March 21 at 7 p.m.

Shown in honor of Women’s History month, the event was organized by the Women’s History Committee. The committee consists of history assistant professors, doctors Hyungju Hur, Renee LaFleur and Margaret Lewis.

“What you’ll notice is that there’s the theme of woman’s suffrage this month because we’re approaching in a couple of years, various anniversaries of women gaining the right to vote all across the world,” said Lewis in her opening remarks.

This is the fourth year that the group has organized events for Women’s History month.

“Suffragette” unfolds in London to follow main character, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), as she fights for women’s right to vote in the UK with Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) and friend Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff).

The social issues of the time are made clear through the life of Maud, a lower class woman, who began part-time work at the age of 7 and full-time by age 12.  Later she witnesses the rape of a co-worker by her boss and the audience learns that she too, was sexually assaulted by the man who suggestively lingers in her shadow.

Hesitant to initially join the movement, Watts becomes involved in the Women’s Social and Political Union when she witnesses the protester brutality after speaking with a high ranking official about the cause, resulting in no change in legislature.  Women around her are mercilessly beaten, kicked and loaded into vehicles to go to prison.

Once released from prison, she is scorned by the public and tension forms between her and her husband who is harassed at work on account of his wife’s actions.

Shortly after, she is arrested again while at a secret meeting, attended by the movement’s quiet by ever present leader, Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep). Through her efforts, Pankhurst has become the object of police attention and encourages the women to “never surrender [and] never give up the fight.”

When released from her second incarceration, tension escalates and she is forced to leave her home by her husband, Sonny (Ben Whishaw). Distraught by the separation from her son, George, whom she sees secretly on occasions, she returns home one day to find that he is being adopted. After the blow of having no legal say in the matter of her son, she diverts her full attention to the movement.

Fueled by the ideas that the government only acts upon war and their desire for change, the women place bombs in mailboxes, bomb the home of a prominent politician that is still in construction, endure more prison time and force feeding.

In one of their final protests, the women go to a horse race attended by King George V.  During the race, suffragette Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press) steps on track to wave a Votes for Women banner and is trampled by the King’s horse. Captured by multiple media sources, the incident was circulated around the word.

In the movie’s close, suffragettes are seen peacefully walking in Wilding Davison’s funeral procession. Women in the UK were given the right to vote in 1918.

According to LaFleur, the movie was chosen in light of the current election year and “attempts to roll back voting rights in the United States with voter IDs and other restrictions” as well as “voter apathy.”

“I think it’s important for us to remember the struggle that many people had to go through in order just to get their rights to vote,” said LaFleur.

In continuing acknowledgement of Women’s History month, Hur, Lewis and LaFleur will host the “Women’s Suffrage Movements Around the World” presentation tonight at 7 p.m. in the Humanities Building, room 121.



Photo Credit: Charity Curry

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