Struggles of ‘Suffragette’ still relevant today
Suffragette is an important historical British period piece based on the struggles of the women’s movement in Britain during the mid-1800’s. Their struggle is real, but many of the characters are fictional. This doesn’t lessen the value of this film and it’s ongoing significance in the world we live in today.
The story begins with Maud Watts, played brilliantly by Carey Mulligan. Maud is a 24-year-old wife and mother, who works a grueling job as a laundress. Her working conditions are unforgiving. She and many others like her routinely accept dangerous working conditions, lower pay than the men, and sexual harassment. Mothers bring their babies to work on their backs, and if that baby is a girl, she too will work in that same environment, and the abuse will be passed on to the next generation. Maud is reminded of this all too clearly when she sees a co-worker’s young daughter being sexually assaulted by one of the supervisors and does nothing. Maud is aware of the women’s movement but is not driven to participate, until she witnesses a co-worker throwing rocks through windows to protest the treatment of women. As time goes by she sees more of this, and women she respects, such as the pharmacist wife, Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) explain the importance of what they’re doing and encourage her to join the movement.
At one point, her friend Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff) is able to speak at parliament, but the night before is so badly beaten by her husband, that there is no way she can stand before parliament. This is when Maud finds her voice. She steps in for Violet, and rather than read Violet’s words, she is asked to use her own. She begins to speak about her life, how her mother died when she was four from an accident at the laundry factory and how the women are paid less and must work thirty percent longer. She tells how the men that work there are the deliveryman, so they can breath fresh air, rather than the poisons fumes her and her co-workers must breathe every day. She is polite and well spoken, and it gives her hope that she may have gotten through to these men of power, but once the votes are in, women’s rights continue unchanged. The women press on, through violent and non-violent protest. Saying at one point that the only way to get through to men is with violence.
The British government works hard to keep the movement out of the press and as the risks get greater, Maud is thrown in prison, her husband throws her out, and puts her only son up for adoption. Maud now has little left to loose, and others around her are feeling the same. They must find a way to get the attention of the press and the world. They decide to make their most daring move at an event that will include the King and journalists from around the world. Things don’t go as planned, but Emily Wilding (Natalie Press), a non-fictional character takes one last heroic stand and in so doing, will bring the attention of the world to the movement.
As I began this review, I said this is an important film. That said, important films don’t often draw the huge crowds at the box office, but this film is relevant today, and worth seeing.
Rating- 5 stars.