The Importance of Telling the Story -- Crusade for the Vote

If you have been one of the lucky few to have already seen Suffragette, you can appreciate why the National Women's History Museum is excited about this new movie.

Although it has a limited showing in the U.S., Suffragette is still drawing attention to the long and tenuous battle by British women for the right to vote (they did not gain universal suffrage until 1928). It is also igniting a new level of interest in American women's campaign to gain the vote. It is making women's history attractive and relevant -- a goal that we support at the National Women's History Museum.

As we work to inspire, educate and empower others by integrating women's history as part of the distinctive culture of the United States, we applaud the writers and producers of Suffragette who recognized the need to expand awareness about this significant moment in Britain's history. Director Sarah Gavron, in a recent interview, talked about the timing for the movie, which had been six years in the making.

This story had never been told, the reason it's never been told before is because women keep being marginalized. What was on our side was there's a conversation now happening about the inequity in the film business, so people were aware. The story we wanted to tell had become more timely.

Her explanation is not surprising. We know that for most Americans, their knowledge of how U.S. women won the right to vote is limited to major personalities like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But the campaign stretched from the East to the West Coast, with dozens of women doing their part as local canvassers, state campaigners, White House picketers, and filling many other roles. The breadth of the suffrage story is still largely unknown.

Think about it. How many women involved in the U.S. suffrage movement, outside of the famous three (Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott), can you name, if asked? And don't feel bad if not many or even any. You are likely not alone. Many people are unaware of the dozens of women that led these efforts during the decades long struggle before the vote was finally won.

Sadly, there's even more ignorance about the intersections between the women's suffrage movement and so many other civil rights movement like abolition, anti-lynching and poverty. Women in the suffrage movement were concerned with more than getting the right to vote -- they wanted fair laws, the elimination of discrimination and equal opportunity. Winning the vote was the first step.

The suffrage movement was primarily about women's place and role in society. Since all women do not think alike, they took many different positions. This continues today.

But so much of this significant moment in U.S. history is left out of history textbooks. It's the reason why the National Women's History Museum recently launched a Suffrage Resource Center. We have created a comprehensive online center where educators, students and researchers can find primary documents, images and sources chronicling the story of the U.S. campaign for the vote for women. There is great importance in knowing this part of American history.

And of course, that's why we are so excited about Suffragette, a movie that brings women's history to the big screen. The British women's campaign influenced many U.S. suffragists, including Alice Paul who created the National Woman's Party and organized the first pickets of the White House. It also expands awareness about women's crucial role in history. So as we approach the holidays, I hope you will take a moment to find a theatre near you and go see Suffragette. It's worth the history lesson.