Iron Jawed Angels is a 2004 film about the American suffragette movement. In the struggle for their rights and the right to vote, in particular, young activists, resorting mainly to peaceful means (they went to pickets or demonstrations with posters emphasizing the main demands and slogans of their movement), were persecuted and imprisoned, although, in fact, they did not violate any laws . The film shows the attitude of society towards suffragettes and their struggle for the right to vote, expresses an artistic view of historical events.
The heroines of “Angels with Iron Teeth” are real-life suffragettes, the prototype of the main character (of the same name) was Alice Stokes Paul, who sought amendments to the current Constitution regarding the right to vote for women.
The film quite often ridicules the main stereotypes about suffragism (and feminism in general): their appearance, not knowing why they so “need” rights equal to men, and that suffragettes supposedly want to turn into men. These provisions are ridiculed both between the suffragettes themselves and between them and men. The fact of the struggle of black suffragettes for equal rights with whites is also reflected.
The society shown in Angels with Iron Teeth has a negative attitude towards the suffragist movement and their activities in general, and activists, risking being condemned not only by the government, but also by society, continue to come out with posters on which the president’s sayings are written. The public order authorities cannot hold them accountable because they did not violate anything, the public hopes that the girls themselves will stop taking to the streets during bad weather or due to lack of funds, but they continue to go to demonstrations and find money.
Some activists still end up in jail. After the declaration of war, they still go to demonstrations and pickets. Denying their guilt and refusing to pay a fine, the girls, unable to prove their innocence and achieve a normal attitude towards themselves, serve their sentences in cells. When one of them (the most active) is hung up by the arms, the comrades-in-arms raise their hands in solidarity and hold them in the same position.
What is the meaning of the movie Iron Jawed Angels?
Alice almost immediately followed her comrades-in-arms, although she was a kind of face of the movement and was going to remain free. Realizing that the girls will be bullied and lose their strength of mind, she decides to get there and at the same time cheer them up. After arranging a demonstration, Alice began to burn sheets of the president’s sayings, reading them out loud to those around her. Of course, this caused a wave of indignation and her early arrest. Once in prison, the girl immediately went on a hunger strike. Companions followed her example. Alice was soon placed in solitary confinement, but even there she refused to eat. After the end of the punishment, she again defiantly refused to eat (comrades-in-arms followed her example). Attempts to send her to a psychiatric hospital were unsuccessful. To prevent Alice from dying, the guards began to force-feed her with the help of special devices.
Alice and her companions manage to send a note to the outside world describing the violence going on inside. The fact of force-feeding, poor treatment of prisoners and the lack of a lawyer for all the girls, who should have been provided to protect them even before entering prison, causes a stir in society.
Of course, the President could not allow such news to leak abroad, even during active hostilities. Moreover, the country was considered democratic. After that, the amendment to the Constitution was adopted by a large number of votes. Women got the right to vote.
Suffragettes were nicknamed “angels with iron teeth” in the press of that era – the best metaphor for the activities of girls. Angelic appearance and iron teeth, fiercely digging into injustice in order to completely crush it, a reflection of great willpower and spirit, a willingness to fight for one’s ideas even at the cost of one’s own life for the sake of future generations.
The meaning of the film lies not only in the struggle of women for rights, but also in personal qualities that allow them to reach the goal.