Iron Jawed Angels

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Iron Jawed Angels
Iron Jawed Angels.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Katja von Garnier
Produced by Len Amato
Lydia Dean Pilcher
Robin Forman
Paula Weinstein
Written by Sally Robinson
Eugenia Bostwick-Singer
Raymond Singer
Jennifer Friedes
Starring Hilary Swank
Frances O'Connor
Julia Ormond
Anjelica Huston
Music by Reinhold Heil
Johnny Klimek
Cinematography Robbie Greenberg
Edited by Hans Funck
Distributed by HBO Films
Release dates
  • January 16, 2004 (2004-01-16) (Sundance)
Running time 125 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Iron Jawed Angels is a 2004 American drama film. It was directed by Katja von Garnier and starred Hilary Swank as suffragist leader Alice Paul, Frances O'Connor as activist Lucy Burns, Julia Ormond as Inez Milholland, and Anjelica Huston as Carrie Chapman Catt. It focuses on the American women's suffrage movement during the 1910s. The film received acclaim at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.[1] Much of the principal photography was done in Richmond, Virginia.

The film follows political suffragists leaders Paul and Burns as they use peaceful and effective nonviolent strategies, tactics, and dialogues to revolutionize the American feminist movement to grant women the right to vote. This film is unrated by the MPAA.


The film begins as Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns (Frances O'Connor) return from England where they met while participating in the Women's Social and Political Union started by radical suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and led by her daughter Christabel Pankhurst. While soliciting donations at an art gallery, Paul convinces labor lawyer Inez Milholland (Julia Ormond) to serve as a figurehead for the parade and meets a Washington newspaper political cartoonist, Ben Weissman (Patrick Dempsey), causing romantic fire to start. Once the pair becomes more active within the National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and organize the 1913 Women's Suffrage Parade on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration, they begin to understand that their ideas were much too forceful for the established leaders, particularly Carrie Chapman Catt (Anjelica Huston). They exclude the African American women from the parade in order to not cause tension in the movement. The pair leave NAWSA and found the National Woman's Party (NWP), in their minds effecting a better way to fight for women's rights. Alice Paul then began a romantic relationship with Ben Weissman.

Over time, problems occur as NAWSA leaders criticize NWP tactics, such as protesting against a wartime President (Wilson) and picketing outside the White House in the Silent Sentinels action. Male supremacists famously (and infamously) label the women "iron-jawed angels." Relations between the American government and the NWP protesters also intensify, as many women are arrested for their actions, though the official charge is "obstructing traffic."

The women are sent to the Occoquan Workhouse for 60-day terms where they suffer under unsanitary and inhumane conditions. During this time, Paul and other women undertake a hunger strike, during which paid guards force-feed them milk and raw eggs. News of their treatment leaks to the media through the husband of one of the imprisoned women, a U.S. Senator, who has been able to lobby for a visit (the suffragists are otherwise unable to see visitors or lawyers) by putting a letter in his shirt. Pressure is put on President Wilson as the NAWSA seizes the opportunity to try for the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution.

Paul, Burns, and all of the other women were all pardoned by President Wilson.

Origin of title[edit]

The film derives its title from Massachusetts Representative Joseph Walsh, who in 1917 opposed the creation of a committee to deal with women's suffrage. Walsh thought the creation of a committee would be yielding to "the nagging of iron-jawed angels" and referred to the Silent Sentinels as "bewildered, deluded creatures with short skirts and short hair."[2]



Critical response[edit]

Film critic Richard Roeper of Ebert & Roeper gave the film a positive review, writing: "Iron Jawed Angels is an important history lesson told in a fresh, and blazing fashion."[5] Scott Faundas of Variety gave the film a negative review, writing: "HBO's starry suffragette drama, Iron Jawed Angels, latches on to a worthy historical subject and then hopes noble intentions will be enough to carry the day. Alas, there's no such luck in this talky, melodramatic overview of the dawn of equal rights for women in America. Gussied up with a comically anachronistic use of period music on the soundtrack and flashy, MTV-style montage sequences, pic misguidedly strives – but ultimately fails – to belie its instincts as an assembly-line movie-of-the-week."[6]

Robert Pardi of TV Guide gave a mixed review: "All the elements for a splendid film about the early days of the women's rights are in place, but director Katja von Garnier's use of distracting cinematic trickery and jarringly modern music meshes poorly with the period setting... Blessed with a flawless physical production, von Garnier distorts her epic tale with music that belongs on a Lilith Fair tour; it sometimes feels as though she and her writers conceived the fight for women's suffrage as a 1912 version of Sex and the City. Only when the anachronisms finally subside in the film's final third is the moving core is allowed to shine."[7]


The film was nominated for five awards at 56th Primetime Emmy Awards, though none of which were won; three awards at the 62nd Golden Globe Awards, winning one; and two awards at the 9th Golden Satellite Awards, winning one. Anjelica Huston won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film and the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for her performance in the film.

Year Award Category Recipient Result
2004 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, Liz Marks, Kathleen Chopin Nominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or a Movie Robbie Greenberg Nominated
Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special Caroline Harris, Eric Van Wagoner, Carl Curnutte III Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Anjelica Huston Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Dramatic Special Sally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, Raymond Singer, Jennifer Friedes Nominated
Casting Society of America Best Casting for TV Movie of the Week Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, Liz Marks Nominated
Humanitas Prize 90 Minute or Longer Category Sally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, Raymond Singer, Jennifer Friedes Nominated
OFTA Television Award Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Anjelica Huston Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Brooke Smith Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Hilary Swank Nominated
Best Motion Picture Made for Television Iron Jawed Angels Nominated
2005 Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Anjelica Huston Won
Best Miniseries or Television Film Iron Jawed Angels Nominated
Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Hilary Swank Nominated
American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week/Mini-Series/Pilot (Basic or Pay) Robbie Greenberg Won
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Hilary Swank Nominated
Satellite Award Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Anjelica Huston Won
Best Miniseries or Television Film Iron Jawed Angels Nominated
PEN Center USA West Literary Award Teleplay Sally Robinson, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, Raymond Singer, Jennifer Friedes Won
Costume Designers Guild Award Outstanding Period/Fantasy Television Series Caroline Harris Nominated


  1. ^ "Interview with Paul Fischer at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004". Film Monthly. 
  2. ^ "HOUSE MOVES FOR . WOMAN SUFFRAGE; Adopts by 181 to 107 Rule to Create a Committee to Deal with the Subject. DEBATE A HEATED ONE Annoyance of President by Pickets at White House Denounced as "Outlawry."". The New York Times. September 25, 1917. 
  3. ^ Skipper, Elizabeth (November 1, 2004). "Review of Iron-Jawed Angels". DVD Verdict. I also noticed Molly Parker as the supporting character of Emily Leighton, a Senator's wife. Parker's character – a fabricated figure, we learn from the commentary. 
  4. ^ DVD Verdict: In this movie, Alice is given a fledgling romance with political cartoonist Ben Weissman. According to the audio commentary, he is another completely fictional character, created to give Alice a (sort of) love interest.
  5. ^ "Iron Jawed Angels Review". TV Plex. February 17, 2004. 
  6. ^ "Review: 'Iron Jawed Angels'". Variety. January 22, 2004. 
  7. ^ "Iron Jawed Angels Review". TV Guide. Retrieved October 25, 2014. 

External links[edit]