The fact remains that women will only gradually gain gender equality with the 'permission' of men. Way back in 1405, Christine de Pizan wrote that inequality between the sexes was based on 'irrational prejudice' held to be true by men. In a self-help world, the suffragettes stepped out of the accepted perception of 'femininity' [defined by men], meaning they needed protection. The truth was, and in many cases still do, need protection FROM men.
What did the suffragettes demand in 1903? The vote. No longer were they satisfied with existing laws that allowed husbands, fathers and brothers to control every aspect of their lives. By achieving a vote to elect members of parliament, the hope was gender equality would follow.
This powerful movie concentrates on the life of a poor laundress who only takes up the cause after being mistaken for a suffragette and jailed. The time is 1912. She then joins up with a group of women determined to use any means to achieve their objective. This has tragic personal consequences for Muad [Carey Mulligan], and indeed the other members of the group she joins. The women have a charismatic leader, Emmeline Pankhurst [played by Meryl Steep, who by the way is only in the film for all of 4 minutes], who encourages the women to 'go to war' with the words 'I'd rather be a rebel than a slave'.
The Suffragette Society was formed in 1903 in London and at first tried to use persuasion as a means to their end. After being promised by the Prime minister of the time for a fair hearing of their cause, their plea was dismissed with the words that parliament was 'obliged to do nothing at all'.
All genteel behaviour by these Victorian ladies was changed to a declaration of war, which was matched by extraordinary brutal behaviour by the police of the day. This was later softened by the Chief of Police [Brenden Gleeson] only because the fear was one of the suffragettes would die and they 'would have their martyr'.
The screenplay was written by Abi Morgan after careful research and the terrible living and working conditions of the time are truly represented. The scenery is gloomy and the dull costumes for the most part are in keeping with the theme of a very drab period for the working poor.
It is impossible not to get emotionally involved with this movie. All women owe a debit of gratitude to these women who fought the law, their husbands and society who gave them no, or very little support. 2016 is a very different place for women thanks to this group of selfless, defiant 'genteel' ladies who turned to violence to achieve very little in return. Sadly this story has disappeared from the history books. This film won't make mega bucks for the producers, but it is a story worth learning about. The press finally bought their cause to the world's attention, but only after an incident that shocked the world. Many will need a hanky.