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. It focuses on the American women's suffrage movement during the 1910s. The film received acclaim at the 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 Women'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]


Awards and nominations[edit]

The film was nominated for five awards at 2004 Emmys

  • Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special - Nominated
  • Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special - Nominated
  • Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special - Nominated
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special Anjelica Huston - Nominated
  • Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special - Nominated


  1. ^ Interview with Paul Fischer at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004
  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. ^ Elizabeth Skipper. Review of Iron-Jawed Angels, DVD Verdict, November 1, 2004: I also noticed Molly Parker (Deadwood) 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. ... Admittedly, I am pleased that Ben remained such a minor character. Any other movie would have made him the focus, and would have brought the couple together at the end to show that passion for a cause does not have to supersede passion for a man. Now that I know Ben never existed, though, his presence seems unnecessary. Why should a story about women's fight for equality need a man at all?"

External links[edit]