by Laura E. Cortner and Dr. Bob Hieronimus of 21st Century Radio®
Co-authors of The Secret Life of Lady Liberty: Goddess in the New World
We were very excited when we first heard that Meryl Streep was playing the role of British suffrage leader Emmeline Pankhurst in a new film released today entitled “Suffragette.” We assumed the film would be about the powerhouse Pankhurst mother and daughters family who led British women to the vote at the turn of the 20th century, and also hugely impacted the movement in the United States to focus on “deeds, not words.” The controversial militant approach advocated by the Pankhursts to use violent demonstrations, followed by hunger strikes when jailed, was effectively documented in the moving 2004 film “Iron Jawed Angels,” the story of the American leaders, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, who imported these tactics and slogans to American woman suffragists.
In researching our book The Secret Life of Lady Liberty: Goddess in the New World we focused on the symbolism and imagery used by the various groups fighting for women’s rights over the long history of suffrage activism, much of which was originally conceived of by Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst, two of Emmeline’s daughters. From what we learned about this British family of extraordinary women and their highly dramatic life story, we knew a historical drama telling their personal struggles would be a good one, and the tag line on the movie poster is “Mothers. Daughters. Rebels.” so you can see why we assumed that would be the plot of the movie.