A film review: Suffragette – charity premier screening, Manchester Odeon, Printworks, 9th October

Suffragette – charity premier screening, Manchester Odeon, Printworks, 9th October

(featuring Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson)

Thankfully submitted to Chester Culture by Michael Plane (ed. RP)

It was the desperate actions and tremendous sacrifices of the early 20th century suffragettes that eventually forced the press and government of their day to sit up and take note – and which, ultimately, won political empowerment for women in the UK.

Current activists of the north west came together last Friday (9th October), at the invitation of the Pankhurst Trust, for the charity premier of Suffragette at Manchester’s Printworks.

Introductions from the Trust’s CEO Gail Heath, Dr Jill Liddington (who shared the story of how Manchester, home of the Pankhursts, was a significant influence on the UK Suffrage movement), and women’s rights activist Helen Pankhurst (grand-daughter of Emmeline) preceded the premier, and there was a lively post-film question and answer session.

Suffragette was moving, thought-provoking and disturbing. The scenes of police crowd-control and force-feeding, and the abuse of young girls and women by the management of an east London laundry, were shockingly realistic and pulled no punches. Emotional scenes of fear and humiliation – showing how women were rendered powerless even to make decisions about their own children’s future – brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience.

The film also highlighted how the transformation of these down-trodden, abused women into determined activists had a negative impact on those they loved, with social pressure to conform bringing confusion and shame.

As Suffragette reached its conclusion there was spontaneous applause from the full-house audience. The spell-bound crowd was reminded that, even today, women in Saudi Arabia do not have voting rights; and in Switzerland, it was not until 1971 that women were given the right to vote. 

Go and see it if you can – and prepare to feel a call to action – for nearly a century later there is still a long way to go to achieve equality; not only for women, but also for so many others who remain oppressed and undervalued in our society.

Note: The Pankhurst Trust is based at 60–62 Nelson St, Manchester, and is the historic birthplace of the Suffragette movement. The centre hosts a small museum that is open to the public on Thursdays 10am –4pm.

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