Free Essays On Iron Jawed Angels Summary

Iron Jawed Angels

DVD cover

Directed byKatja von Garnier
Produced by
  • James Bigwood
  • Laura McCorkindale
  • Denise Pinckley
Written by
  • Sally Robinson
  • Eugenia Bostwick-Singer
  • Raymond Singer
  • Jennifer Friedes
Music by
CinematographyRobbie Greenberg
Edited byHans Funck


  • HBO Films
  • Blue Dominion Productions
  • Bluebird House
  • Spring Creek Productions
Distributed byHBO Films

Release date

  • January 16, 2004 (2004-01-16) (Sundance)
  • February 15, 2004 (2004-02-15) (United States)

Running time

125 minutes
CountryUnited States

Iron Jawed Angels is a 2004 American historical drama film directed by Katja von Garnier. The film stars Hilary Swank as suffragist leader Alice Paul, Frances O'Connor as activist Lucy Burns, Julia Ormond as Inez Milholland, and Anjelica Huston as Carrie Chapman Catt. It received critical acclaim after the film premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.[1]

The film focuses on the American women's suffrage movement during the 1910s and follows women's suffrage leaders Alice Paul and Lucy Burns as they use peaceful and effective nonviolent strategies, tactics, and dialogues to revolutionize the American feminist movement to grant women the right to vote. The film was released in the United States on February 15, 2004.


Alice Paul and Lucy Burns return from England where they met while participating in the Women's Social and Political Union started by radical suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst and led by her daughter Christabel Pankhurst. The pair presents a plan to the National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to campaign directly in Washington D.C. for national voting rights for women. They find that their ideas are too forceful for the established suffragette leaders, particularly Carrie Chapman Catt, but they are allowed to lead the NAWSA Congressional Committee in D.C. They start by organizing the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration.

While soliciting donations at an art gallery, Paul convinces labor lawyer Inez Milholland to lead the parade on a white horse. Paul also meets a Washington newspaper political cartoonist, Ben Weissman (a fictional character), and there are hints of romantic overtones. In a fictional scene, Paul tries to explain to Ida B. Wells why she wants African American women to march in the back of the parade in order to not anger southern Democrats and activists, but Wells refuses, and she comes out of the crowd to join a white group during the middle of the parade (Wells did refuse to be segregated, and marched with her state delegation, but never met with Paul about it.[2]). After disagreements over fundraising, Paul and Burns are forced out of the NAWSA, and they found the National Woman's Party (NWP) to support their approach. Alice Paul briefly explores a romantic relationship with Ben Weissman.

Further conflicts within the movement are portrayed as NAWSA leaders criticize NWP tactics, such as protesting against Wilson, and their sustained picketing outside of the White House in the Silent Sentinels action. Relations between the American government and the NWP protesters also intensify, as many women are arrested for their actions and charged with "obstructing traffic."

The arrested women are sent to the Occoquan Workhouse for 60-day terms. Despite abusive and terrorizing treatment, Paul and other women undertake a hunger strike, during which paid guards force-feed them milk and raw eggs. The suffragists are blocked from seeing visitors or lawyers, until (fictional) U.S. Senator Tom Leighton visits his wife Emily, one of the imprisoned women. News of their treatment leaks to the media after Emily secretly passes a letter to her husband during his visit. Paul, Burns, and the other women are released.

Pressure continues to be put on President Wilson as the NAWSA joins in the NWP call for passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Wilson finally accedes to the pressure rather than be called out in the international press for fighting for democracy in Europe while denying democracy's benefits to half of the U.S. population. During the amendment's ratification, Harry T. Burn, a member of the Tennessee legislature, receives a telegram from his mother at the last minute, changes his vote, and the amendment passes.

Origin of title[edit]

The film derives its title from Massachusetts Representative Joseph Walsh, who in 1917 opposed the creation of a committee to deal with women's suffrage. Walsh thought the creation of a committee would be yielding to "the nagging of iron-jawed angels" and referred to the Silent Sentinels as "bewildered, deluded creatures with short skirts and short hair."[3] The use of steel holding open the jaws of the women being force-fed after the Silent Sentinel arrests and hunger strike is also a plot point in the film.


Fictional characters[edit]

Fictional characters in the film are Ben Weissman; his child; Emily Leighton; and Senator Tom Leighton.[6][7]


Critical response[edit]

Film critic Richard Roeper gave the film a positive review, writing, "Iron Jawed Angels is an important history lesson told in a fresh, and blazing fashion."[8] Scott Faundas of Variety gave the film a negative review, writing, "HBO's starry suffragette drama, Iron Jawed Angels, latches on to a worthy historical subject and then hopes noble intentions will be enough to carry the day. Alas, there's no such luck in this talky, melodramatic overview of the dawn of equal rights for women in America. Gussied up with a comically anachronistic use of period music on the soundtrack and flashy, MTV-style montage sequences, pic misguidedly strives – but ultimately fails – to belie its instincts as an assembly-line movie-of-the-week."[9]

Robert Pardi of TV Guide gave a mixed review, "All the elements for a splendid film about the early days of the women's rights are in place, but director Katja von Garnier's use of distracting cinematic trickery and jarringly modern music meshes poorly with the period setting... Blessed with a flawless physical production, von Garnier distorts her epic tale with music that belongs on a Lilith Fair tour; it sometimes feels as though she and her writers conceived the fight for women's suffrage as a 1912 version of Sex and the City. Only when the anachronisms finally subside in the film's final third is the moving core is allowed to shine."[10]


The film was nominated for five awards at 56th Primetime Emmy Awards, none of which were won; three awards at the 62nd Golden Globe Awards, winning one; and two awards at the 9th Golden Satellite Awards, winning one. Anjelica Huston won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film and the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for her performance in the film.

2004Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or a SpecialJanet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, Liz Marks, Kathleen ChopinNominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or a MovieRobbie GreenbergNominated
Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or a SpecialCaroline Harris, Eric Van Wagoner, Carl Curnutte IIINominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a MovieAnjelica HustonNominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Dramatic SpecialSally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, Raymond Singer, Jennifer FriedesNominated
Casting Society of AmericaBest Casting for TV Movie of the WeekJanet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, Liz MarksNominated
Humanitas Prize90 Minute or Longer CategorySally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, Raymond Singer, Jennifer FriedesNominated
OFTA Television AwardsBest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or MiniseriesAnjelica HustonNominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or MiniseriesBrooke SmithNominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture or MiniseriesHilary SwankNominated
Best Motion Picture Made for TelevisionIron Jawed AngelsNominated
2005Golden Globe AwardsBest Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television FilmAnjelica HustonWon
Best Miniseries or Television FilmIron Jawed AngelsNominated
Best Actress – Miniseries or Television FilmHilary SwankNominated
American Society of CinematographersOutstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week/Mini-Series/Pilot (Basic or Pay)Robbie GreenbergWon
Screen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television MovieHilary SwankNominated
Satellite AwardsBest Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television FilmAnjelica HustonWon
Best Miniseries or Television FilmIron Jawed AngelsNominated
PEN Center USA West Literary AwardsTeleplaySally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, Raymond Singer, Jennifer FriedesWon
Costume Designers Guild AwardOutstanding Period/Fantasy Television SeriesCaroline HarrisNominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^"Interview with Paul Fischer at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004". Film Monthly. 
  2. ^
  3. ^"HOUSE MOVES FOR WOMAN SUFFRAGE; Adopts by 181 to 107 Rule to Create a Committee to Deal with the Subject. DEBATE A HEATED ONE Annoyance of President by Pickets at White House Denounced as "Outlawry."". The New York Times. September 25, 1917. 
  4. ^Skipper, Elizabeth (November 1, 2004). "Review of Iron-Jawed Angels". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on June 26, 2015.  
  5. ^DVD Verdict: In this movie, Alice is given a fledgling romance with political cartoonist Ben Weissman. According to the audio commentary, he is another completely fictional character, created to give Alice a (sort of) love interest.
  6. ^"Iron Jawed Angels: Characters". Iron Jawed Angels Media Smarts. Retrieved March 21, 2015. 
  7. ^"DVD Verdict Review – Iron Jawed Angels". DVD Verdict. November 1, 2004. Archived from the original on June 26, 2015. Retrieved March 21, 2015. 
  8. ^"Iron Jawed Angels Review". TV Plex. February 17, 2004. 
  9. ^"Review: 'Iron Jawed Angels'". Variety. January 22, 2004. 
  10. ^"Iron Jawed Angels Review". TV Guide. Retrieved October 25, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Iron Jawed Angels starts off focusing on two well-to-do women named Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. After participating in the women’s suffrage movement in England as suffragettes, the two ladies decided to spread this ideal in America. At the time, there was already a National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), but the association did not go to the lengths of suffrage that they were looking for. Instead, the National Women’s Party was created.

With Paul and Burns leading this party, NWP was able to progress and share their ideas in society. They were able to work as role models and instill courage in other women to stand up for what they deserve under the constitution. Even when men yelled at them or attacked them, they kept strong.

Since Wilson did not originally give in to what they wanted, the women started to protest right in front of the White House and even had signs quoting the hypocrisy of President Wilson. This act in itself showed the valiant and brave qualities of these women; it made a statement: they will not back down without a fight. So even when Wilson declared war and became a war president, the women still continued to fight for their suffrage. However, with their relentless cause came unfair consequences as they were arrested and sent to a workhouse under the weak reason of “obstructing traffic.” Paul eventually, too, was arrested and decided to have a hunger strike like how people did back in her country.

To avoid public outrage after hearing of her death, the government ensured to feed her through tubes by force. Even still, the conditions that Paul and these women had to go through were spread throughout the media due to a note passed on to the U.S. Senator from his wife, who was held in the workhouse as well, which eventually leads to Wilson finally passing the nineteenth amendment to grant the suffrage of women.

In my opinion, I absolutely loved the movie. It was very poignant and interesting, which had my eyes glued to the screen at all times. When Paul was being tortured and force-fed- the general brutality of it all- literally brought tears in my eyes. Plus, the acting was very good- the fact that the women talked in a modern accent and even sometimes joked around, made it easier for young women to connect to them- they were just like us; just young women wanting to exercise their rights.

This movie not only helped me learn more about the details of the women’s rights movement in America, but it also had me sympathize with the women. It made me think about how the people we merely read about in history books were dedicated for their causes and even went to the lengths of choosing between life and death. Their passion and knowledge for what they believe in is outstanding and I believe that U.S. History students should give more interest and credit to them than they do today.

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