Reflecting on the Past: Suffragette’s Bearing on Women Today

Blog / Monday, November 30, 2015

Empowered Women and its network assembled at E Street Cinema for a screening of the awe-inspiring film Suffragette, a film based in early 20th Century Britain that chronicles the plight of a group of women who were willing to make enormous sacrifices in the fight for women’s equality—specifically the right to vote.

One thing is certain – women wouldn’t be where we are today were it not for the determination, resilience, bravery, and sacrifice of so many who came before and whose steadfastness and resolve for equality built a foundation upon which future generations could progress.

Those who participated in the suffragette movement were working on a blank canvas. Britain wasn’t the first country to achieve women’s suffrage, but for the women navigating those uncharted waters, it might as well have been – fear a likely undercurrent each step of the way. The women who embarked on this journey faced severing ties with their families, losing their jobs, and risking alienation in society; they shattered social norms for justice. Meryl Streep, who plays suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, is quoted in the movie as saying, “If you want me to respect the law, make the law respectable.”

While watching Suffragette I couldn’t help but try to picture myself in that same situation; I imagine many in the audience did as well. When considering the context in which these events took place, I think we all would like to believe that we would be among those standing at the forefront, leading the charge for a better life for all women. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but when you really stop to think about it: would you be willing to lose your job? Would you forego your job, family, and friends for change you believed in?

Luckily, women today don’t have to belabor over these questions because others did. Society can build upon the mission they started so long ago because of their actions that changed the course of history.

A scrolling credit at the end of the film recapping the years in which countries throughout the world achieved women’s suffrage is a stark reminder of the progress we have yet to make. Looking within countries’ borders, we see even more issues that demand our attention. However, just as this movement made strides, so will today’s. The success of Suffragette lies in the fact that it reminds us—perhaps painfully—how relevant these issues still are today, while effectively conveying the message that you must fight for what you believe in, a message that transcends time.

Lindsey Horan is a communications and advocacy specialist in Washington, D.C. She holds an M.A. in global communication and has a passion for international affairs, travel, live music, and coffee.

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