Suffragette parents guide

Suffragette Parent Guide

These sister suffragettes remind us all that we should treasure our right to vote.

Overall B+

When the women of England ask for the right to vote they meet with strong opposition and even brutality. This movie version of the historical fight stars Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter.

Release date October 23, 2015

Violence C+
Sexual Content C+
Profanity C-
Substance Use C+

Why is Suffragette rated PG? The MPAA rated Suffragette PG for some intense violence, thematic elements, brief strong language and partial nudity

Run Time: 106 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) did not intend to become a Suffragette. Despite soapbox speeches urging her and her neighbors to demand women be given the right to vote, the twenty-four-year-old wife and mother really wasn’t converted to the cause or interested in answering their call to increased civil disobedience. Rather she just accepted as unchangeable her life of poverty and her need to endure terrible working conditions and abide by the law—even if England in 1912 favored the male gender.

But a series of events slowly awakens within her soul a need to claim her entitlement to equal treatment. First, she discovers that one of her co-workers, Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff), is an active participant in the militant movement for political change. Then she is persuaded to speak in Parliament about the differences in health issues faced between men and women employed in the laundry industry. Next, she returns with a group of protesters anxious to hear how their testimonies have influenced the government’s decision on voting rights, only to discover the whole process has been a sham. Instead of receiving sympathy, the crowd is turned over to the police who brutally beat the peaceful demonstrators. The last straw occurs when she is one of the many to be thrown in jail.

Unfortunately neither her community nor her husband (Ben Whishaw) views her sufferings as noble. Soon the shame she has caused them takes its toll and Maud loses her marriage, her child, her home and her job. With nowhere to go, the young woman turns to her Suffragette friends and devotes all her energy to the Women’s Social and Political Union, an organization founded by activist Emmeline Pankhurst (played by Meryl Streep).

There is no question that this movie is an earnest effort to bring to light the price paid for the recognition of women’s rights. Maud Watt’s character is a compellation of many of the injustices faced by the fairer sex. As such, her trials include sexual molestation (which is verbally eluded to), witnessing sexual child abuse (an authority figure is shown cornering a twelve-year-old girl and fondling her), rough-handling and bloody injuries inflicted by law officers, harassment during incrassation, and starvation strikes that lead to being force-fed though a tube inserted into the resistant prisoner’s nostril (which is depicted in some detail). Portrayed as well are some of the illegal activities Maud and her cohorts engage in, such as breaking windows, bombing buildings and mailboxes, and putting themselves in harm’s way to attract attention to their cause (one character is killed in such an endeavor).

Maud’s journey also acts as a narration to historical events. However, this seems to be where the production flounders, in part because it isn’t easy to connect how the opportunity to vote would improve the main character’s personal plight - although removing social and legal restrictions on her and other women is a worthwhile end in itself. Other reasons the movie may miss its mark include Maud’s frequent eloquent remarks that feel too scripted to be natural dialogue, and the plot’s attention to the fictional elements of the story which interferes with the audience’s ability to bond with the real figures that helped shape the outcome of this desperate fight (such as Emily Wilding Davison who is played by Natalie Press).

Faults aside, the film’s lukewarm reception ironically appears to be a repeat of the past. Even though it offers great production values, a big budget look complete with period costumes, and an all-star cast (other notables include Helena Bonham Carter, Romola Garai and Brendan Gleeson), Suffragette has been given only a limited theatrical release and a cautious promotional push. Is this lack-luster enthusiasm an indication of the studio’s confidence, or a reflection of the public’s interest in this important topic? Either way, given the many challenges still faced by women world wide, it’s disappointing.

Directed by Sarah Gavron. Starring Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter. Running time: 106 minutes. Theatrical release October 23, 2015. Updated

Watch the trailer for Suffragette

Rating & Content Info

Why is Suffragette rated PG? Suffragette is rated PG by the MPAA for some intense violence, thematic elements, brief strong language and partial nudity

Violence: Acts of civil disobedience are depicted including breaking windows, putting bombs in mailboxes and blowing up personal property. Panicked bystanders run for safety. Police attack peaceful female protesters, hitting and kicking them, and causing bloody injuries. Employees are threatened with being fired, and are let go, if they don’t comply with the boss’s wishes. The physical challenges faced by child laborers are mentioned. Other health hazards of the workplace are discussed. A woman, whose spouse if rumored to be violent, is shown with a bruised and battered face. Women are incarcerated on trumped up charges. Characters engage in hunger strikes. A female prisoner is force-fed through a feeding tube inserted in her nostril – the painful process is shown and her screams of pain and resistance are heard. A woman is thrown out of her home by her husband and loses the right to care for her child. Neighbors shun disgraced suffragettes. A character intentionally puts a hot iron on another’s hand. A woman is offered protection from the law if she will turn in her friends. An angry wife hits her husband. A husband locks up his wife to prevent her from participating in illegal activities. A demonstrator puts herself in harm’s way to bring attention to the cause -- she is killed and her body is briefly seen.
Sexual Content:An employer is briefly shown fondling a twelve-year-old girl. The sexual coercion of another employee is discussed. A woman undresses and her underwear is shown. A young boy is seen shirtless. Female buttocks are exposed when prison matrons strip prisoners of their clothes.
Language: One sexual expletive is used in a non-sexual context. Mild and moderate profanities are heard, along with slurs.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A woman’s husband is described as a violent drunk. Male and female characters smoke cigarettes. Women pass around a flask of alcohol. Other drinking is alluded to. Medicine is prescribed and administered.

Page last updated

Suffragette Parents' Guide

Other films about human rights injustices have received favorable reactions from audiences – such as those depicting the treatment of Jews during World War II or the civil rights fight of African Americans. Do you feel the apparent disinterest in this movie is related to its subject matter, or the faults in the production?

At the end of the film a timeline of women’s suffrage (right to vote) around the world is presented. You can find a more extensive list here. Were you surprised at how long it has taken some countries to grant that privilege to women? Why do you think it has taken so long for this change? What have been the results of giving women this power? Have they been as negative as the early naysayers feared?

Loved this movie? Try these books…

"Marching with Aunt Susan" is a children's book by Claire Murphy about Bessie, a young girl who wants to go hiking with her brothers- until she learns that there's some things girls just can't do...yet. When she meets Susan B. Anthony, she realizes that maybe she can do more than society has told her.<br>

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has written Bold &amp; Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote to celebrate those women. This book is suitable for children. Also suitable for young readers is Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted, with its story of inspiring women such as Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, Sally Ride, Nellie Bly, and Oprah Winfrey. She has also written an international version celebrating female pioneers around the world.<br>

Adults looking for a more in-depth treatment of history should dig into Sally G McMillen’s Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement. One of the earliest calls for female equality dates back to the 18th century and Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women.<br>

Women around the world are continuing to fight for their rights and those of others. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have written an inspiring account of their efforts in Half the Sky.

News About "Suffragette"

Learn more about the real suffragettes:
Emily Wilding Davison

Emmeline Pankhurst

Women’s Social and Political Union

From the Studio:
A drama that tracks the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State. These women were not primarily from the genteel educated classes, they were working women who had seen peaceful protest achieve nothing. Radicalized and turning to violence as the only route to change, they were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality - their jobs, their homes, their children and their lives. Maud was one such foot soldier. The story of her fight for dignity is as gripping and visceral as any thriller, it is also heart-breaking and inspirational. Written by Production

Home Video

The most recent home video release of Suffragette movie is February 2, 2016. Here are some details…

Related home video titles:

Suffragette is available to watch on demand. The documentary, He Named Me Malala tells the contemporary story of another young woman and her fight for the right of her gender to get an education.

The lead actresses in this movie also appear as strong women in other productions. Meryl Streep can be watched as a settler in Africa and a fearsome magazine editor in Out of Africa, The Devil Wears Prada Carey Mulligan appears in another classic film, this time a literary adaptation of in Far From the Madding Crowd Helena Bonham Carter plays the Queen Mother in The King’s Speech.