Iron Jawed Angels

March 24, 2017 Philosophy

Title: Summary, Reaction, and Analysis Paper #1: Iron-Jawed Angels Iron Jawed Angels is a story of two women fighting for women’s rights. They led the struggle for the passage of the 19th amendment to the constitution which gave women the right to vote. These two women along with others petitioned, campaigned, and picketed to publicize the issue. After being arrested for “traffic violations” a group of women spent time in Occoquan Workhouse. Here they went on a hunger strike to protest being imprisoned for demanding equal voting rights.

After not eating the prisoners had to be force fed, here they earned the nickname “iron jawed angels. ” This became a headline in the news and ultimately forced Woodrow Wilson, the president, to give in to their demand of the 19th amendment. There are many characters that support the role of promoting and achieving women’s rights throughout this movie; however three characters take precedent in being organizational leaders in the women’s movement. Alice Paul (January 11, 1885 to July 9, 1977), an American suffragist leader and an American feminist who risked her life to fight for women’s citizenship and the right to vote.

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Alice Paul joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was appointed Chairwoman of their Congressional Committee in Washington, DC after she graduated from Pennsylvania. Paul worked with Lucy Burns against conservative forces in order to pass the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Paul also organized a parade on President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration day, while encountering opposition from the old guard of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, Carrie Chapman Catt. In January 1917, the NWP staged the first political protest to picket the White House.

Paul was arrested for “interfering with traffic” and placed in jail at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia; there she went on a hunger strike, and had to be force-fed. In January 1918, Wilson announced that women’s suffrage was urgently needed as a “war measure”, and strongly urged Congress to pass legislation. Finally in 1920 she achieved the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution allowing women to vote. Alice Paul was the original author of a proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution in 1923. Alice Paul leaves behind not only a legacy, but a hope for women who are still suffering.

Lucy Burns (July 28, 1879 to December 22, 1966) an American Suffragist and woman’s rights advocate. Burns was a close friend of Alice Paul, and together they ultimately formed the National Woman’s Party. Both joined the National American Women Suffrage Association as leaders of its Congressional Committee. Burns was also elected as an executive member of the Congressional Union of the National American Women Suffrage Association. She then went to San Francisco, California with suffragist Rose Winslow to organize women in the 9 different states where women had a right to vote.

In 1915 Burns became the editor of the Congressional Union’s newspaper The Suffragist. Burns worked in virtually every aspect of the organization such as; chief organizer, newspaper editor, lobby head, suffrage educator, architect of the banner campaign, teacher, orator , rallying force, and symbol of the NWP. Burns was arrested while picketing the White House and was sent to Occoquan Workhouse. Here she exercised more demonstrations such as a hunger strike. Burns also helped organize and circulate one of the first documents that defined the status of political prisoners.

Burns endured what is remembered as the “Night of Terror” after the women of the United States gained the right to vote. Carrie Chapman Catt was a women’s suffrage leader who campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which gave U. S. women the right to vote in 1920. Catt served as president of the National American Women Suffrage Association and was the founder of the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women. Catt was a colleague of Susan B. Anthony. Anthony chose her to be the head of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

She was elected president of NAWSA twice. Catt was also a leader of the international women’s suffrage movement, and helped to found the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in 1902, serving as president from 1904 until 1923. Many Issues area addressed throughout the movie. Alice Paul, along with Lucy Burns and Inez Mulholland-Boissevain; exudes organizational leadership and institutional entrepreneurship. Not only do they have a social influence in the community she provides a role model in not only enforcing her cause, but participating as well. She didn’t just organize the picket lines; she was on them.

When her women went to jail, she went with. Ultimately she created a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. Ethics are a prominent issue throughout the history in general. In the early 1900’s ethics is the backbone of Paul’s campaign. This division of philosophy, ethics, which addresses questions about morality such as right and wrong, and the questions of virtues. Meta-ethics is broadly discussed; in the issue of the attitude of Paul and Burns peers, the government, and even NAWSA. Throughout the movie Paul and other suffragists is pushing to make changes not only socially but politically.

Their activism consists of writing letters, campaigning, economic activism, boycotts or preferentially patronizing businesses, street marches, rallies, sit-ins, strikes, and even guerrilla tactics. By making the 19th amendment legal not only does this affect the government, society would begin to change within time. By women achieving more freedom and rights their views, their opinions, and ideas can be expressed. It is more acceptable for women to in general have an opinion after the 19th amendment was passed. Iron Jawed Angels, an inspirational story that withholds perhaps one of the most important movements in time.

Until I viewed this movie I did not fully comprehend the depths of the struggles of the woman’s suffrage movement. This movie contains a powerful message about what women can do using their rights and skills in organizational leadership. Determination which one woman carried, and many supported allowed a national change to take place. Before watching this movie I had heard of Susan B. Anthony, but never of Alice Paul or the other suffragists. I also never realized how hard it was for a woman to get ready; we take our pre-bought makeup for much granted.

The parade that takes place is an extremely important event. It shows the many different types of women and how far they’ve come. It also shows how many people were interested in the topic that no one showed up to the see Woodrow Wilson, because everyone was at the parade. Not alone his lack of knowledge of the subject, since he himself did not attend. It shows the intense anger that people felt against this issue, and how the government failed to offer protection during the parade; that men were not only willing to be mentally, but physically abusive in order to maintain precedence.

With characters such as Catt, it shows how the some of the elderly women were not willing to reform or change, that they were uncomfortable with such situation. It is completely enraging to me that these women, who were respectable parts of the community, were not taken seriously when addressing a point. I still see this in the elderly in my town. Many times has my grandmother addressed how she was not allowed to talk to men unless spoken to, how she wasn’t allowed to have a real job and go to college. Still men do not feel that women can hold certain jobs, or do “manly” activities.

I was recently fired from a job because I instructed a customer on how to change his breaks properly, the gentleman complained and said I was out of my place and I should be in the back doing paperwork. Still almost a century later, sexism is still apparent and is a constant issue. I feel I would have acted similarly to Alice Paul, stay calm but witty, polite but determined. I feel that throughout the movie so leads by example and speaks with knowledge, and that is a true hero. I would in turn pursue pressing charges against the local law enforcement for inability to provide basic law protection.

Another major part of the movie is the picketing. I feel like if people are not disturbing other people’s rights they should be able to express theirs. The silent picketing was not disrupting anyone, and certainly was not obstructing traffic. In this situation there is not much you could do different. Finally the time spent at the woman’s work camp. It is hard to imagine this situation, because even now in this day and age women are not pushed into those extreme conditions. I would have done the exact same thing that Paul did, attract as much attention as possible so that the world could bare witness to the true reality of the situation.

Iron Jawed Angels exemplifies many issues such as leadership, ethics, activism, diversity, and democracy. The leadership of Alice Paul is the forefront of the movie. The important part was not that she was a leader, but how she led. Leadership is only the process of social influence, in Paul’s case she led in the forefront. She not only provided aid and direction, she led by example. Much in the case of black’s rights and same as will be with bisexual rights issues. Paul created a way for people to contribute; she made every single person feel like they were part of something. Every person had a task.

In order to be a great leader and obtain a certain goal there are many things you must do. Have a purpose, priorities, roles, decisions, conflict, personal traits, norms, effectiveness, success, and training. These have all been key goals in overcoming any issue. I have been taught that no matter how you lead you can influence greatness. Paul and Burns first practiced leadership in a directional manner. They gave people purpose and goals to achieve as a group. During the time of picketing, Paul and Burns lead by example. They were there in the “front of the battlefield” with the troops.

They stood in danger and picketed with everyone else. When suffragists were being arrested, Alice Paul went to the picket line and joined them in the work camp. When her women were suffering and loosing hope in jail Alice started a hunger strike to remind them what they were fighting for and that they could still come together. She led with no words, only action. In the issue of Ethics; sexism, discrimination and devaluing of women in general are prominent throughout Iron Jawed Angels. Women are not allowed to have their own ideas, or even values. They are expected to believe what their husbands believe and want what their husbands want.

The police denied protection to the women throughout the movie, allowing them to be assaulted by crowds of men. They believe that if the women do not agree with their ideals that they do not deserve to be treated as humans. The government is so intimidated by the suffragist’s movement that they lie and incarcerate them on false arrests, unfair trials, imprisonment in harsh conditions, and overall torture. The suffragists themselves were tried intently although they were abused and mistreated they never withheld their beliefs. They continued to petition their cause even when everyone was against them.

I feel during this time the issue of what’s right and what’s wrong constantly arguable. Is it right for the women to petition during war? Is their cause less important because there is a war? Is it morally right to starve yourself in order to protest? Are you harming your cause or helping it by starving yourself. Are you worth anything when you are dead? These are all issues argued throughout the movie. Along with constant ethical issue that men believe that they are above the women. Not only did this make me aware of the ethical issues that existed, but possibly how to deal with them.

Although the hunger strike has been used many times and did help further identify the issue of women’s suffragists struggle. I feel like there may be other ways to achieve this. Although it is extremely honorable what the women did in order to further our cause, I am further proud of them, because I feel I would not be strong enough to do so myself. That most issues fought over come down to the argument of ethics and moral beliefs of individuals and how those impact others. All we can do is educate others in our opinions to further achieve a spread of our beliefs.

Iron Jawed Angels is boldly celebrating political activism and showing various ways of how to proceed with activism. Alice Paul was one of the first to organize a picket line at the White House. She also establishes a party separate from NAWSA to protest women’s rights. She organizes a parade which is the forefront and beginning of the battle to achieve awareness of women. Not only is she working with women like her, she draws in many women from different classes, areas, and political origins. They have nothing in common except for the fact that they are women, and are being denied rights.

Not only does this address the issue of diversity, but it combines the diverse as one; provides a common goal to unite them. The working class with the upper class, and yet they are all in the same place, “no woman is free, in America” says an upper class house wife, while the lower class simply wants a fire escape in hard working conditions. We have learned that no matter who you are or where you are from, that in some point in time we are all equal. That an upper class housewife, could someday be a homeless person, that we all experience to some degree hardships, and if we unite together we are stronger and more powerful.

In this case blacks, whites, Americans, Russians, housewives, and maids all united to achieve one common goal, because there is power in numbers and one voice can be heard when it is the untied voice of many. In the instance of Iron Jawed Angels many may perceive that the fight was against democracy, the suffragist movement was not against democracy but for it; for a change in the current democracy and for a better democracy that would represent all of the people obeying it, not just the majority. We have learned that in order to achieve a great change in power of democracy we must show that majority needs and or wants a change in democracy.

That you cannot change the world on your own, you must unite with others sharing like ethics, and beliefs. You must have leadership and direction and you must be able to come together for one cause, and have supportable evidence that a change needs to occur. Overall I ron Jawed Angels has taught me that determination and hard work does pay off, that I have come from a strong legacy, and with hard work we can change the future and achieve greatness. Works cited Iron Jawed Angels: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way. Dir. Katja von Garnier. HBO, 2004. DVD


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