A few years after Anthony's death, Alice Paul hit the suffragette scene, fresh from a stint in London where she was exposed to more radical means of working to enfranchise women than those engaged in by the National Woman Suffrage Association. Paul's fight to obtain voting rights for women is the subject of the movie "Iron Jawed Angels" that was shown at a recent meeting of the Islettes (a women's group at the Isles Yacht Club). The movie was fast-paced, continuously interesting, and full of information that I'm embarrassed I didn't know. Having learned more about the story behind the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, it's notable that high school history books focus on the work of Anthony without really mentioning Paul. But that's a discussion for a different day.
One of the interesting facts highlighted in the movie is that the women's suffrage movement had two distinct camps. The first believed that the way to secure voting rights was through a state-by-state adoption of constitutional amendments. The second believed that efforts should be focused on securing passage of a U.S. constitutional amendment. In the movie, you see Paul and her followers being driven out of the National Woman Suffrage Association due to their singleminded focus on a federal amendment. They then formed the National Woman's Party. This was not the first time this issue resulted in the creation of multiple suffragette organizations. In fact, Susan B. Anthony established the NWSA in 1869 in response to the American Women Suffrage Association's decision to work solely towards the passage of state constitutional amendments. For a bit more history on this point, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Woman_Suffrage_Association,
|Silent Sentinels at the entrance to the White House|
"Iron Jawed Angels" gave me a much greater appreciation of the efforts and sacrifices that were made to secure voting rights for women. I'm not surprised that the movie didn't do well in the theaters given the topic. I have to admit that I went into the film expecting it to be on the dry side, one of those "it's good for you" kind of experiences. I can assure you, though, that if you get the chance to see "Iron Jawed Angels", you will be anything but bored. I can also assure you that if you're a woman, you won't take your right to vote for granted again.