But for Maud — thin and worn — there is only the same routine work in the laundry that she has done since she was 14, working for just enough shillings a week to barely ensure the necessities of life. Of course, men in the laundry make more for the same work, but Maud has not questioned her lot in life. That all changes as she is accidentally swept up into the idealistic fervor of the growing suffragette movement as British women from all backgrounds ardently fight for their right to vote. It’s 1912, and the movement began 50 or 60 years ago, in the previous century, but has gathered such force that British government leaders and the police are now in full crackdown mode.
After Maud ends up testifying at the spur of the moment about her dreadful working conditions and hopes for the vote, in front of England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George (Adrian Schiller), she becomes a police target. While attending her first peaceful protest, she is beaten and thrown into prison. In a later arrest and imprisonment, she embarks on a hunger strike and endures tortuous force feedings, which is exactly what happened historically, during this time, to determined British suffragettes who were jailed.
Carey Mulligan Stuns As A Suffragette In Engrossing New Film
Carey Mulligan as Maud opens a window into the life of hopeless drudgery that lower class working women endured, without any rights at all, not so very long ago. When Maud’s husband, furious at her unseemly activities, throws her out of their bleak apartment and prevents her from seeing her son, she has absolutely no legal rights of recourse. As a mother, she has no legal authority to see her son. On a personal level, Maud’s commitment to the cause of changing women’s standing in society has tragic consequences. But on a spiritual level, she has no choice — she can not move away from enlightenment. She can not give up hope for a better life for herself, and for the next generation of downtrodden women.
The film is engrossing. Carey Mulligan is magnetic as Maud, who can not turn away from the promise that there is more to life than near-slavery in a laundry, and no respect in her home. The story of the women’s movement to earn the right to vote is one that you should be familiar with. It had to be unrelentingly hard to fight. British women 30 and above, who owned property, were finally granted the right to vote in 1918. But it wasn’t until 1928 that all women over 21 were extended that fundamental right. In the US, Congress at last gave women the right to vote in 1920, after an almost century-long battle here.
Now, for most women here today, the right to vote is assumed and often taken for granted. That’s another imperative reason to see Suffragette. Hundreds of thousands of women in Great Britain and the US — most of them as poor and disrespected as Maud — sacrificed their personal lives, families, jobs and health to attain this right. We mustn’t forget, especially as we head into the 2016 presidential election, when it’s finally likely that we will have our first female contender, Hillary Clinton, for president. If you’ve ever for a moment wondered why you should bother to vote, see Suffragette. You’ll never feel that way again.
Hollywoodlifers, let me know if you agree.
— Bonnie Fuller
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