Wednesday, November 11, 2015


The struggle for the right of women to vote is an international one and the bruising fight continues to this day. The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution: Women’s Right To Vote was ratified in August 18, 1920 after decades of civil disobedience, strife, marching, humiliation, hunger strikes and incarceration -  a battle with simple but enormously important consequences - the necessity  for women to have a voice in who represents them in making the laws of the land and how those laws which often affects a woman’s life are interpreted. Without the vote, we are ignored, invisible and betrayed. Here is a link to a Library of Congress’ paper Why Women Should Vote written sometime after 1896 by  Alice Stone Blackwell giving 16 compelling and poignant reasons why women should vote - as relevant today as ever:

SUFFRAGETTE directed by Sarah Gavron focuses on a group of both working class and wealthy British women in 1912 whose ideologies and wretched situations at home  propel them to risk jobs and marriages in order to crack the male shell of resistance to the idea of women’s equality. Led by Emmeline Pankhurst, (a cameo performance by Meryl Streep) who in 1903 founded the more militant Women’s Social And Political Union (WSPU) - participating in demonstrations and hunger strikes where she herself was violently force-fed - acts that contributed to her mystique and the adoration of her followers. The bleak ambience of SUFFRAGETTES characterizes with historical accuracy the streets of London, the  wardrobes, and homes of women in different socio-economic groups, just before the advent of World War I - a time when women were more expendable and vulnerable to their male bosses; wages were a mere pittance and escape, a mirage. Husbands had absolute control over wives and children - both through physical abuse and the power of the British legal system. 

Films distort by the very nature of their structural limitations which are usually 2 hours. In that compressed amount of time and  a director’s subjective view of history, we follow the political radicalization of a laundress who labors under deplorable conditions (having begun as a mere child) named  Maud Watts (an actual composite of a suffragette named Hannah Mitchell - beautifully played by Carey Mulligan, coming to the realization that she has no legal recourse over her detestable working environment, and in her personal world no claim over the welfare and future of her child. Maud comes to the conclusion, along with a group of fellow activists after hearing Mrs. Pankhurst speak, that years of peaceful protests had not altered their situations; shocks of violence were the only means of getting the attention of the government controlled Press and Parliament. The consequences of  these menacing actions are woven into the film’s drama. The wonderful actor Brendon Gleeson plays an Inspector Jarvert-type police official who is relentless in the prosecution and strategy of dealing with political “agitators” personifying the authority of the British legal system which enveloped ALL women who were subjugated to the daily slog of male dominance vitiating their every breath.

SUFFRAGETTE is not a great film, but the  inequities that befall the heroine and her “co-conspirators” made me fiercely conscious of society’s injustice to those who are seen as  defenseless. I was overcome by the overwhelming powerless of an individual to enact change without organizational support. Transformation is possible where there is courage and the remaining choices have been eliminated - when one is caged there are few alternatives other than shattering the bars.

At the very end of the movie there is  a timeline listing when women got the right to vote and the list was astonishing. There are many country's that in 2015  still do not grant women that right such as Saudi Arabia where it is still pending!!!!

Timeline of Women’s Suffrage Granted, by Country
1893 New Zealand
1902 Australia1
1906 Finland
1913 Norway
1915 Denmark
1917 Canada2
1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
1919 Netherlands
1920 United States
1921 Sweden
1928 Britain, Ireland
1931 Spain
1934 Turkey
1944 France
1945 Italy
1947 Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan
1949 China
1950 India
1954 Colombia
1957 Malaysia, Zimbabwe
1962 Algeria
1963 Iran, Morocco
1964 Libya
1967 Ecuador
1971 Switzerland
1972 Bangladesh
1974 Jordan
1976 Portugal
1989 Namibia
1990 Western Samoa
1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
1994 South Africa
2005 Kuwait
2006 United Arab Emirates
2011 Saudi Arabia3
NOTE: One country does not allow their people, male or female, to vote: Brunei.
1. Australian women, with the exception of aboriginal women, won the vote in 1902. Aborigines, male and female, did not have the right to vote until 1962.
2. Canadian women, with the exception of Canadian Indian women, won the vote in 1917. Canadian Indians, male and female, did not win the vote until 1960. Source: The New York Times, May 22, 2005.

3. Women in Saudi Arabia will not be eligible to vote until 2015.

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