Stars: Carey Mulligan, Helen Carter, and Meryl Streep
Well, it really doesn’t star Meryl Streep. It’s more of a cameo appearance not even totally five minutes.
The women who fought for our rights do need our thanks. However, like any other social change, some fought for change while others enjoyed status quo and their position in the scheme of things.
Enter Carey Mulligan, who plays Maud Watt. She is a laundress, poor, married, and has one young son. She’s been working since she was twelve in terrible conditions, scraping by to make a life. For the most part, she’s accepted her lot in life. Appears to be happy in her marriage and a fulfilled mother.
Then she recognizes someone at work, who is part of a demonstration, and throws a stone through a store window shouting, “Votes for women!” Appalled, frightened, and not quite sure what to think of it, she eventually becomes part of the movement. She attends a rally to check out the cause but is not a suffragette filled with the heated emotion to bring upon change.
When she is arrested and thrown into prison for her participation, things drastically change. Her husband turns against her and locks her out of the home because she is an embarrassment and cannot be controlled by a good whack, like other wives. Eventually, unable to care for their son, he adopts the child out to another family. Maud loses everything — home, marriage, and child — which merely fuels her desire to fight the good fight more radically.
The movie focuses on more than women demanding the vote. It paints a picture of the struggles that women, in general, went through to become more than wives and mothers in a male-dominated society.
I’ve recently been reading historical news clippings from Salford, U.K. (my ancestry research), and came across an interesting article when women finally got the vote in 1918. It was reported that women were among the first voters in every polling district to show up the first time they could vote, eager to exercise their freedom. However, one woman interviewed by a reporter stated afterward, “Is that all it is?” Apparently, after the years of suffering to get there, when it finally happened, all the hype didn’t meet the expectations of some ladies. I’m sure that’s not the case with all who fought for the right to have a voice. Frankly, I think it was a bit of a sarcastic twist on behalf of the reporter.
As far as the movie goes, it’s historically interesting. If you hate male domination and the thought that women need to be put in their place, this movie may not be for you. Violence is used against demonstrators as if they deserved every blow.