“In Oranges and Women…” – Iron Jawed Angels Twitter Event Recap

By Lauriane Lebrun

On August 26, I hosted a chat and simultaneous viewing of the film Iron Jawed Angels via the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association’s Twitter in celebration of Women’s Equality Day and the 95th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment’s ratification.  To everyone who watched and tweeted along: you’re awesome!  Thank you so much for making this event fun, insightful, and informative.

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Did you miss the event?  No worries – you can still find all the tweets by visiting our Twitter page or by searching #IJAwithTPSM.

Read on for a recap of the chat, including commentary (from myself and other event participants) on the content and historical accuracy of Iron Jawed Angels.

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Iron Jawed Angels: How Accurate Is It?

Overall Iron Jawed Angels does an excellent job of depicting a specific time period in the suffrage movement.  The film takes place mainly from 1913 to 1920 and focuses on the militant tactics of Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party (NWP).  There was, of course, much more to the movement in terms of time, events, and strategies, and many more suffragists that could have been portrayed in more detail.  Given the typical runtime of a movie, however, the amount of information included in Iron Jawed Angels is impressive enough.  It should nevertheless be noted that the film is not an exhaustive account of the entire women’s suffrage movement.  (If you want to learn more about the parts of the movement that were not depicted in the film, I recommend reading Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United States by Eleanor Flexner and Ellen Fitzpatrick, and Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists by Jean H. Baker.  These books served as two of my main sources for fact-checking Iron Jawed Angels.)

Even where the film breaks from fact and veers off into fiction, it does so with a purpose.  The fictional characters of Emily Leighton and Senator Thomas Leighton serve as an effective portrayal of marriage and parenthood in the 1910s.  Ben Weismann, also fictional, is incorporated as Alice Paul’s made-up love interest.  While Ben’s presence adds drama and romantic appeal for viewers, it also provides a reason for the characters of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns to discuss how they feel about love, marriage, and children.  These details humanize the suffragists, and bring to light historical truths such as the fact that Alice Paul remained single throughout her life.

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The film is also “effectively inaccurate” in terms of chronology.  For the sake of a smooth storyline and practical runtime, the dates of real events are rearranged in the film.  These two timelines exemplify this technique:

Film Chronology:

  • Night of Terror
  • Watchfires of Freedom
  • Alice Paul arrested at Suffrage Pickets

Historical Chronology:

  • Alice Paul arrested at Suffrage Pickets (October 1917)
  • Night of Terror (November 1917)
  • Watchfires of Freedom (began January 1919)

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Here are some other goofs and inaccuracies that were mentioned on Twitter.  As you can see, though, there are only a few, which goes to show that the film is pretty factual overall.

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Iron Jawed Angels: Discussion

While participants of the Twitter event shared plenty of factual information, they also engaged by sharing their personal thoughts, opinions, and photos.  One common trend I noticed in several tweets involved honoring and reflecting on the past and connecting it to the present—which is what the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial is all about.

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Lauriane Lebrun is a Summer 2015 Online Communications Associate with the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association and an honors student at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH.

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