“Where all men are created equal“- In the early 1900s, more than a hundred years after these words became the foundation of the United States of America, women in the country continued to be less equal than me. Iron Jawed Angels (2004) is the story of two women (Alice Paul played by Hillary Swank and Lucy Burns played by Frances O’Connor) who led the struggle for the passage of the 19th amendment to the constitution which gave women the right to vote. The name ‘iron jawed angels’ was the nickname given to some of these women when they resisted being force-fed after they went on a hunger strike to protest against being imprisoned for demanding equal voting rights (‘political prisoners’) for men and women. Their hunger strike made headline news and ultimately forced President Woodrow Wilson to accept their demand to give women the right to vote.
This movie is about organizational leadership and institutional entrepreneurship. It effectively depicts how the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement saw different opportunities and threats in the environment (“Is the first world war a good time to demand that women be given the right to vote?”) and how political intrigue is inevitable in any organization, no matter how noble the cause (women’s suffrage!). I don’t come across many movies about strong and effective women leaders. This is a great movie about different women in leadership roles, and how each women defined her role in her own unique way!