Iron Jawed Angels – Essay Examples and Topic Ideas

In both the United States and England, women were starting to reject their roles in society; no longer did they want to be submissive housewives, but rather, equal to men. The women’s suffrage movement in the United States began decades before the Civil War as reform movements spread throughout the country. The 1848 Seneca Fall Convention marks the official birth of the movement, as the Declaration of Sentiments drafted there famously proclaims, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (“Declaration of Sentiments”). One of these “certain inalienable rights” was the right to vote. Across the pond, English women had already started their fight over a decade earlier with a petition to Parliament in 1832. Because the fiery movement in England was already sparking, several English suffragettes traveled across the pond and became key figures involved with the movement in the United States, bringing militant tactics and strategies and rendering it more effective.

The movement in the United States was halted when the Civil War began, as everyone turned instead to focus on the abolition of slavery and equal rights for African Americans. African American men gained the right to vote after the Civil War ended, with the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments defining a citizen as male and giving all men the right to vote, respectively. This pushed the women’s suffrage movement back into motion. In the end, World War I helped women gain the right to vote, both in the United States and England, as the work they contributed to the war effort demonstrated they were “just as patriotic and deserving of citizenship as men” (“Women’s Suffrage”). Parliament passed an act in 1918 giving women who were householders over the age of 30 the right to vote in England, but it was not until 1928 that the Representation of the People Act gave women the right to vote on the same terms as men. In the U.S., Tennessee was the last state needed to ratify the 19th amendment for the required majority. Only then was the 19th United States constitutional amendment officially ratified in 1920, enfranchising women at last and just in time to allow them to vote in that year’s election.

The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment is a scholarly book by Dr. Corrine M. McConnaughy in which McConnaughy discusses how women struggled to gain the right to vote throughout their near century-long movement. However, this book is not the classic depiction of women’s suffrage activists and the movement’s successes and failures, but rather, an investigation into why geography mattered in the fight for the vote, as well as how the men in various political and social groups both positively and negatively affected the effort. It is not difficult to utilize logos in a scholarly work, and McConnaughy does so with ease by including “qualitative historical work and quantitative statistical analyses” for confirmation of her political reassessment of the movement (14). An example of McConnaughy’s use of quantitative data is her selecting a sample of five states and tracking “the development of the issue of woman suffrage over time, from its earliest mention in the public sphere in that state until the adoption of woman suffrage in that state…These states were chosen as a set in order to capture not only significant variation on the key explanatory factor – the character and competitiveness of the partisan politics environment – but with attention to variation that would allow for investigation into the roles of state political institutional and demographic differences in this partisan process” (15). Quantitative data is difficult to argue with, as it is solid research and factual evidence, making this data very logical and appealing to the audience.

Dr. McConnaughy is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the Ohio State University. She received her B.A. in Political Science from DePaul University with Highest Honors, and her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan. If these credentials alone are not enough evidence of McConnaughy’s credibility, she then employs ethos throughout her writing, as she references courses she took during her studies and incorporates the research she put in for her dissertation, tying her knowledge together with the political analyses of the historical events in the book.

The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment is clearly directed at an educated audience with previous background knowledge of the women’s suffrage movement. The diction used is scholarly in nature, as McConnaughy writes in chapter one, “Bringing Politics Back In”:

Despite evidence of retrenchment and resistance in the history of voting rights in the United States, as well as other nations, de Tocqueville is not alone in his belief in the surety of universal suffrage. A number of scholars confronting the question of suffrage extension since de Tocqueville, however, have underscored the idea that political elites should not be willing to extend suffrage rights. Those with power should have an interest in maintaining it for the benefits that accrue to them; control of government institutions, of course, yields control over social and economic policy, as well as government coffers. Expanding access to the elective franchise to new groups would seem to threaten the benefits political elites reap by increasing the constituent demands that they must meet to maintain their control of the government (23-24).

It is clear from this excerpt that McConnaughy’s book is not directed toward the masses, as the diction used is objective, formal and requires a reader with an expansive vocabulary. She also shows that she has heavily researched the topic, as well as other scholars’ ideas, as the quote above is in response to Alexis de Tocqueville, whom McConnaughy deems “the most famous observer of American democracy,” and Tocqueville’s belief that he “saw confirmation of the inevitability of consistent suffrage extension” (23). McConnaughy offers final proof of her research when she cites her sources using footnotes on any page where she brings in outside information and factual evidence. This book is irrefutably a scholarly source.

While McConnaughy’s scholarly text would be classified by most as a demanding read, a lighter option for learning about the women’s suffrage movement is Lucy Ribchester’s The Hourglass Factory. This book is an excellent choice for pre-teens and young adults in search of an enthralling and historically-based novel that gives the audience a new perspective from the women’s suffrage movement in England that shows that not all women were suffragettes. The Hourglass Factory delves into the opposing side of the suffragette movement, as Ribchester’s protagonist, Frankie, is a journalist, which allows her to mock the suffragettes in cartoons and articles. It is evident from the first chapter that Frankie looks down on the suffragettes, as she muses with disdain that “[suffragette] wasn’t even a real word anyway, it was a name someone at the Daily Mail had made up to distinguish Mrs. Pankhurst’s hammer-throwers from Mrs. Fawcett’s tea-drinkers. There were suffragists and suffragettes and Nusses and Spankers and Wasps, and they all looked the same in their blouses and tailor-mades, hawking pamphlets on street corners in taxidermy hats” (4). Ribchester utilizes pathos here, as she attempts to persuade the reader to share Frankie’s contempt for the so-called suffragettes by using imagery to appeal to the reader’s knowledge of how snooty, upper-class ladies dress and act. In addition to this prior knowledge, the reader should also have at least a middle-school reading level to understand the diction, as though the sentence structure is short and easy to follow, the reader must have a decent vocabulary to know what words such as “hawking” and “taxidermy” mean.

Even though Ribchester’s novel is a popular source aimed at the masses, historical facts and events in this work of fiction are apparent. At the end of the book, Ribchester notes in her Acknowledgements section that she examined numerous historical accounts from famous figures of the women’s suffrage movement in order to accurately portray the women as characters, and to paint the scene of 1912 London in the midst of the movement. These include various compositions from the Pankhurst family, highly influential assets to the suffrage movement, as well as works from historians that completely focus on the history of London. The novel also illustrates the historical successes of the women’s suffrage movement in England from a fiction standpoint, providing explanation for why some of its characters end up taking a hop across the pond to assist with the American movement toward the end of the book. Therefore, it can be concluded that, while a mainstream text source, The Hourglass Factory is a well-researched novel with historical roots.

While many people find entertainment in reading, others find it in watching movies. HBO Films’ Iron Jawed Angels, produced by Katja von Garnier, is an award-winning picture whose plot focuses on the strategies and tactics of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, two famous women’s suffrage leaders. The film depicts the suffragettes as passive yet effective and follows the hurdles and hardships the women must endure in their pursuit of enfranchisement. In this way, the purpose of Iron Jawed Angels is the opposite of Dr. McConnaughy’s The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment, as Garnier’s storytelling is exactly what McConnaughy shies away from. Instead, Iron Jawed Angels is loosely based on historical events and concentrates on entertaining the audience with flashy action sequences and romance while still incorporating historic details like the arresting and force-feeding of the suffragettes.

As Iron Jawed Angels is a film produced for the masses, the audience can be either educated or uneducated and still grasp the plot of the movie. No prior knowledge is expected of the audience, as the film gives ample background information to clue the audience in. As long as one speaks English, no subtitles are required and the dialogue is easy to understand, with straightforward quotes like “To pay the fine would be admitting guilt. We haven’t broken a law. Not one dollar!” and “We’re legitimate citizens. We’re taxed without representation…It’s unconstitutional. We don’t make the laws but we have to obey them like children.” Though simple, these words strike indignation in the audience, causing them to side with the protagonists, the suffragettes. This is Garnier’s goal, as by including facts of the suffragettes’ plight, she appeals to the audience using logos, acquiring them as allies throughout the movie as she rallies support for the women’s suffrage movement.

Garnier seizes the opportunity to use pathos by integrating both romantic and platonic relationship issues into the movie, in addition to a typical love affair, and takes advantage of the average audience’s affinity for the entwinement of romance and drama. Garnier further shows that she is highly adept at incorporating pathos into her work by playing on the audience’s morals with the violent force-feeding scene, as Alice Paul is thrown into a chair, strapped down, and has her jaw held open by a metal contraption to allow for a rubber tube to be shoved down her throat, through which a mixture of milk and raw eggs follows. The viewer cannot help but squirm, gag, and watch in horror at this heart-wrenching scene revealing the harsh treatment of the imprisoned women. However, at the end of the movie, the audience is left with an overall feeling of fulfillment, as the movie rightfully ends with women cheering and paper stars falling from the sky at the news of the 19th amendment officially becoming a law, giving millions of American women the right to vote.

Most people in the United States today would say that women’s enfranchisement is common sense, and are baffled that, only a century ago, women were not allowed to vote. McConnaughy’s The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment and Garnier’s Iron Jawed Angels both agree with this sentiment, as these sources portray the women’s suffrage movement as a pivotal moment in history. McConnaughy’s scholarly work does so objectively and without a bias, of course, as it is an educational and scholarly text source, and that is the nature of the genre. However, Iron Jawed Angels has the liberty to express opinions, being a mainstream movie produced more for entertainment than educational purposes, and can paint women fighting for the right to vote as a positive and progressive undertaking.

Contrarily, Ribchester’s The Hourglass Factory differs from the other two sources in that it gives the impression that it does not condone the women’s suffrage movement. Being a fiction novel geared toward young adults gives the book the same freedom of expression as Iron Jawed Angels, as both sources were fabricated for the masses. Another contrasting point of The Hourglass Factory is that it is told from the perspective of the women’s suffrage movement in England and is therefore able to leave the reader with an understanding of the impact the movement in England had on that of the United States.

While a unanimous agreement on any topic in history will never be reached, one thing is certain: despite the varying viewpoints people hold, women have the right to vote in the United States, thanks in part to England. The extensive discussion and analysis of the three sources and their genres shows that, no matter a source’s position on the women’s suffrage movement, they all clearly convey that it was a significant part of history. Whether the source’s stance is expressed through ethos that utilizes scholarly sources and professional credentials, through logos that presents statistical facts and data implications, or through pathos that confronts the empathetic and emotional human nature, there is one underlying commonality: due to the tireless and unwavering dedication and laboring contributed by women in the United States and England, both countries now recognize that suffrage is a woman’s constitutional and inalienable right.

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