In Iron Jawed Angels, Hilary Swank and cast accurately portray the historical events of the National Woman’s Party to have an amendment to the constitution made so women can vote.
Although many historical fiction movies incorporate fallacies to events in order to make them more appealing, Iron Jawed Angels limits this behavior. Many of the characters were real people who helped the nineteenth amendment be added to The Constitution, including Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Inez Millholland, and Ruza Wenclawska. Characters not historically accurate include Ben Weissman, Senator Leighton, and Emily Leighton. The purpose of Weissman is to demonstrate Paul’s nurturing and motherly nature despite her rigid nature. Both Leightons demonstrated the range of classes found within the NWP, including the highest classes.
One part of the movie that should have been highlighted more was when Ida Wells-Barnett told Paul that both colors should march together on their way to the White House or colored people would not march at all. It was not clear who Wells-Barnett was or what her purpose was, when in fact she was a leading African-American suffragist.
Some of the scenes in Iron Jawed Angels were not for the faint of heart. Paul and many other suffragists went on a hunger strike in prison, causing them to be force fed. The feeding was displayed graphically but was necessary to demonstrate the gravity of what happened behind closed doors in that prison. Another violent scene occurred when police officers arrested the ladies for “obstructing traffic” in front of the White House. Viewers are aware of the absurdity of the charge, causing police brutality to be shocking. Although some of the scenes were disturbing, it was not without good cause, showing the brutality accurately.
Lastly, the movie constantly evokes strong emotion in various scenes. The force-feeding evokes horror and disgust with how the women are treated. The police arrest scene evokes anger, as well as when the charges are proven true in court and all the women falsely accused. Anxiety is felt when they are voting for whether the amendment should pass or not, but pride is felt when it passes.
Iron Jawed Angels correctly demonstrates the events during the women’s suffrage movement by the NWP.
Written by Emily Curran