Tulsa TV Memories

"Iron Jawed Angels"
A Review by Gary Chew
of a new HBO Film

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

We all know who wrote the Declaration of Independence. But we're not so familiar with the author of the Equal Rights Amendment. Her name was Alice Stokes Paul. She was born in 1885 in Moorestown, New Jersey, not far from Philadelphia.

Home Box Office is getting a two week jump on the thirty-one day observance of Women's History Month in March with the release of its new original motion picture, "Iron Jawed Angels." The film is about how Alice Paul and other suffragists fought the battle to win passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Hilary Swank Hilary Swank plays Miss Paul (as she preferred to be called), a middle-class, well-educated, Quaker who brought stress to not just a few prominent males, especially prior and during WWI. It was through her lobbying and cajoling, along with Lucy Burns (Frances O'Connor), Inez Milholland (Julia Ormond), Carrie Chapman Catt (Anjelica Huston) and Emily Leighton (Molly Parker) that President Woodrow Wilson finally capitulated and gave his support to amend the constitution for a nineteenth time. Wilson bundled his support, however, into the rationale for supporting the war being fought in Europe. Women having the right to vote just didn't seem, then, to be enough for standing on its own merits.

"Iron Jawed Angels" begins rather MTV-ish with a confusing series of quick-cut edits and some swanky (no pun intended) camera pans and zooms to hold, I guess, the just-tuning-in crowd. And the music is contemporary; no stuff of the first and second decades of the 20th Century in the background. And, although I found some of the music listenable, it was subtly distracting to the visual of how our eye remembers America circa 1912 and on into the Twenties.

This doesn't take away from the historical importance and value of the film, although I do get the feeling there's so much more to this story, and what we're getting with "Iron Jawed Angels" is something that's been put through the HBO break-room compactor.

Woodrow Wilson confronted by suffragettes
Suffragettes confront President Woodrow Wilson

After reading up a bit on Alice Paul, I find that her fight to secure voting rights for women and other gender equality issues was only one of the dots in a long string that connected her productive life. For example, in 1938, she founded the World Women's Party in Geneva, where she assisted feminists, Jews and others victimized by Nazi Germany. Time and space don't allow me to relate her resume, but just let me say that this was only part of what she was committed to until her death in 1977.

So, I hope that maybe HBO, or another fine producer of motion pictures, will return to the life of Alice Paul sometime. It's seems to me, after seeing "Iron Jawed Angels" and learning more about Miss Paul that she had an interesting life well-lived.

More about "Iron Jawed Angels" (including a trailer) at HBO Films.

Gary Chew can be reached via email at garychew@comcast.net.

Copyright © 2004, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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