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Iron Jawed Angels

       We can read about American History and see that different groups of people suffered because they didn’t have the same civil rights recognized by the law. About 95 years ago a group of women decided to stand up to the law and asked to have the same right that men had, the right to vote. These women fought for this right and changed people’s point of view about women’s thoughts. Yet, to get this right as is shown in the film Iron Jawed Angels these women had to overcome difficulties like the first parade going wrong, personal conflicts, problems when WWI began, environmental problems, and conflicts with legal authorities.

       In Philadelphia, September, 1912, Carrie Catt and Anna Howard, a member and the president of National American Woman Suffrage Association, had a talk with Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, who wanted to talk with the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, about a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. One of Paul’s ideas was to have a parade, so Catt and Howard sent Paul and Burns to Washington, DC. Doris Stevens, Alice Paul, and Lucy Burns once they were in Washington, DC, tried to invite women to participate in the parade and generally tried to tell them that women have the right to vote. Eventually Alice Paul met Inez Miholland , a rich young lady, and Ben Weisman, a Washington Post writer. Paul invited Miholland to participate in the parade. Weisman gave an idea to Paul, drawing a picture where Miholland was wearing big white wings, riding on a white horse and she was leading the parade.

       Unfortunately the first difficulty the suffragists had was the first parade went wrong. When the groups of women were marching in the parade many people looked at them like if they were crazy women just pretending to get some attention. Also during the parade, Ida Wells Barnett, an African American woman from the Chicago Delegation, decided to participate in the parade, and she and her black companions marched with the rest of the white women and not in the back like she was told to do. People started to throw bottles, calling the women names, and the parade went wrong, and perhaps most disturbingly, the police did not protect the women.

       The second cause of problems the women suffered was personal conflicts between the women in the National American Woman Suffrage Association and those in the National Woman Party. When Catt saw that the parade was a total disaster and shameful for National American Woman Suffrage Association, she told Paul that Catt no longer supported her plans anymore. In Washington DC, 1916, Alice Paul, with Lucy Burns, started to collect money for their own organization called the National Woman Party, taking with them the most powerful fundraisers, Phoebe Harkes, Helen Keller, and Harriot Blatch from the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Alice and the rest of the women collected $ 25, 343.88, but Carrie Catt announced that NAWSA was going to take the money and investigate the way the money was spent. The intent was to make Paul to quit her separate campaign. One more tragedy for Alice Paul and friends Ines Miholland, the lady on the white horse died during the campaigns from pernicious anemia, and Paul blamed herself for almost forcing Miholland to continue campaigning although she had complained she was exhausted.

       January, 10, 1917, yet another factor the suffragists had to content with was War World I. After the death of Miholland, Alice organized a protest, but the situation about the war made it difficult. People thought that either these women are taking advantage of the situation of a distracted president to get what they want, or more seriously, that the women, who continued to picket the white house, were traitors.

       Related to the picketing, the next cause was the environmental problems. These kinds of problems made protesting very difficult. After a long thought, a group of women of the National Woman Party went picketing in front of the White House, and they were picketing for weeks in bad weather like rain, snow and wind dressing up with colorful clothes holding up big signs saying among other things ,“We demand an amendment to the Constitution of The United States enfranchising women.”

       Because of the attitudes of the legal authorities, the women of the National Woman Party had difficult and embarrassing situations. When the groups of women were picketing in front of the White House, people walking by were not happy for the situation. They yelled and screamed to the women of the National Women Party, making chaos. Police officers came to arrest the women and on a trumped-up charge the District Commissioner charged them with “Obstructing traffic.” The fine was to pay $10 each or spend 60 days in the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. Two of the first four women arrested were Lucy Burns and Doris Stevens. Burns stood up and said to the judge, “To pay the fine would be admitting guilt. We haven’t broken the law.” When they were sent to the Occoquan Workhouse, guards of the workhouse abused their power, giving them bad food, water, failing to empty their slop buckets, and sometimes sending women to solitary confinement. After Alice Paul and Emily Leighton, wife of the senator Leighton, were picketing they were also sent to the workhouse. In the workhouse Emily refused any legal assistance and made a statement to her husband’s lawyer, saying, “In prison or out, American women are not free.” Alice Paul refused to eat. Finally guards paid attention to that situation and took Paul to the District Mental Hospital and had her evaluated by psychiatrists. When they asked Alice why she refused to eat, she said, “The hunger strike was a tradition in old Ireland, you starve yourself on someone’s doorstep until restitution is made and justice is done.” Senator Leighton went to visit his wife Emily in the workhouse and asked her to come home. Even though she refused, Emily gave a kiss to her husband and put a note in his suit. The note was from Alice Paul. On the way home Senator Leighton read the note and decided to make it public in the newspaper. Alice Paul wrote, “I was put in a straitjacket and taken to the psychopathic ward. I could not see my family or friends, counsel was denied me. I saw no other prisoners and heard nothing of them. I could see no papers. Today I refused to open my mouth. My left nostril, throat, and muscles of my neck are very sore. I vomit continuously during the process of being force fed” After the note from Alice was published, Carrie Catt and the American people rescued Paul and the rest of the women prisoners from the workhouse, and President Wilson himself began to push for suffrage.

       On August 26th, 1920, the amendment giving women the right to vote became constitutional law. Groups of people still parade, protest, and picket to have the same rights like the rest of the citizens and be treated equally by the law.