My Complicated Feelings After Seeing “Sufragette”

Claire Handscombe

“Sufragette” is a powerful 2015 film, starring Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep among others. It tells the story of the movement to get votes for women in early 20th century, and the heroines of that movement — Emmeline Pankhurst among them. As we look to November 2020, it’s worth revisiting the idea of electoral justice — and fighting to see it come to pass.

Here are some of my feelings after seeing “Sufragette”.


At my country for so long trying to silence these women, and doing it in the most brutal, most punishing, most dehumanising of ways.


Also at my country for sparking this so-important, worldwide movement, from which I and countless others have reaped untold benefits all our lives.


I know I wouldn’t have been brave enough to fight with them. I would have been heartbroken by their plight and appalled at the injustice; I would have prayed, perhaps long and hard, maybe even fasted. But I don’t think I would have had the courage to face even arrest, never mind jail. Never mind a hunger strike.


At the injustice of the plight and place of women, especially poor women: having no rights to use their own money, no say over their children’s fate, no hopes for a better life for themselves or their daughters.


The human stories behind unequal rights are heartbreaking.


At the price these women paid for a cause in which they believed — the benefits of which would be reaped by future generations, and almost certainly not by them.


The price was not only paid by them. It was paid in their broken marriages and by their hurting and confused children. Not everything they did was okay. It’s not okay to blow up someone’s house, even if no one is living there. Not everything they did was justifiable. Certainly, not everything they did was harmless. Who knows what was in the postboxes they blew up? Maybe things that would have changed or bettered someone’s life. What if someone was trying to call a doctor when they cut the phone lines?


I live in a better, more just world because of these women. I am so glad to be alive now, in the 21st century.


Injustice doesn’t have to last forever just because it has lasted so far.


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC

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