Iron Jawed Angels

I know I already wrote about this, but I just wrote this for my Writing 101 class–we have to attend 5 campus events throughout the semester and write about what happened and what you think. Not sure I really wrote about what happened, but I really like the outcome of this piece so I thought I’d share.

Iron Jawed Angels

            A speaker spoke. The lights dimmed. The screen was black for a heartbeat and then it burst into a rainbow of colors. The crowd was silent, just breathing in and out. We were all waiting for the same thing, for the story to unfold, for the movie to take us back in time to when women were widely considered to belong to their husbands; back to when women were taxed without representation; to when they weren’t allowed to vote.

When I heard that Iron Jawed Angels was going to be showed for the ninety-second anniversary of the passage of the nineteenth amendment, there was not a doubt in my mind of whether or not I was going to attend. I first saw Iron Jawed Angels in my ninth grade US History class. I was fourteen years old then, four years away from being able to go to the polls. Even though I was a minor, seeing that movie affected me greatly. I watched it with wide eyes and a growing feeling behind my heart. I wanted to be able to vote. I wanted to be able to have a say in my life. Over the next four years, the feeling that Iron Jawed Angels had sparked within me only grew.

On February 14th, 2011 the students of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my hometown, dumped thousands of valentines on Governor Scott Walker’s desk protesting the Wisconsin state budget repair bill, which would strip unions of their collective bargaining rights, among other effects.  What unfolded was a historic event. I didn’t attend school for over a week due to teachers calling in “sick”. My high school joined with its rivals in marches downtown to support the unions. The “Fab 14” Democratic Senators fled the state in order to postpone the vote. In the months that followed, I wanted nothing more than to be eighteen. I wanted to write my name on the Recall Walker petition. When June 5th 2012 came, I watch as a vast majority of my peers sported their “I Voted” stickers. My stomach felt empty. I wanted to have a say. I wanted to recall Walker. It just so happened that during the June voting, I was in a history class, called Women’s Studies at school, and one day my teacher sat back and put in a movie. Iron Jawed Angels appeared on the screen. I watched again as Alice and Lucy flipped their coin, as Emily struggled to resist the movement, as Inez rode on the great white horse. I get goose bumps every time I watch that part of the movie. I cry every time Ruza starts to sing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”.

I wish I had something to fight for like that, something I believed in so much that I would to whatever I could, whatever I was able to, to win it. I wish I could thank every single woman who fought for my right to vote. It frustrates me when people don’t use that right, that privilege really, because so many women around the world don’t have it. So much sacrifice went into you being able to complete that line, and I understand that that’s something that is easy to forget, but I can’t let it go. The first time I voted, just under a month ago, all I could think of was the women who came before me.

Sitting in the Missouri Recital Hall, in a room full of women, I watched my peers almost as much as I watched the movie. I wondered how the movie was affecting them, if it would cause some of them to act differently, to think differently. We’re very powerful, the youth, the women. “We’re called the Iron Jawed Angels. Is that supposed to be an insult?”

I think it was far from that.


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