Laurel Hill Site Plays Prominent Role in Upcoming Film "Iron Jawed Angels"


Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010

Feb. 9, 2004

 

Laurel Hill Site Plays Prominent Role in Upcoming Film "Iron Jawed Angels"

An upcoming HBO film, which highlights a significant period in women's history in the United States, stars several well-known actors including Oscar winners Hilary Swank and Angelica Houston. In addition to these Hollywood stars, the film features a local notable, the familiar exterior of the former Washington D.C. Prison at Lorton (located in the area now called Laurel Hill). A story of suffragists who fought for the right of women to vote, the film explores a period of change in the movement that led to suffragists serving time in the prison's workhouse for women.

"Iron Jawed Angels" is set in the years immediately prior to the 1920 ratification of the 19th amendment allowing women to vote. It focuses on two young women, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, and their fight to build on the previous work of the National American Women's Suffrage Association. These women, who eventually split from that group to form their own National Women's Party, began in 1917 to use more militant tactics to move forward a movement that had been simmering for more than 60 years. The National Women's Party borrowed two techniques that had proved successful for suffragists in Britain, picketing and peaceful demonstrations.

As the country was embroiled in World War I at the time, the daily picketing of the White House was viewed by politicians as embarrassing and unpatriotic. As a result, the suffragists were routinely arrested for loitering or obstruction of traffic. Between June and December of 1917 approximately 168 women were sentenced to serve time in the Lorton Workhouse, where they faced deplorable conditions. They were given food unfit for consumption, unclean clothes, filthy blankets, no privacy for even the most private of activities and received no soap, toothbrushes or toilet paper for days.

The incarceration of these women, the unsanitary, unhealthy conditions they faced, their self-imposed hunger strike and refusal to be force-fed, led to moral outrage throughout the country and helped to speed the movement toward the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment.

The film depicts a significant chapter in Fairfax County's history and the history of women in their struggle for voting rights. It will be seen first in this area at a small, free preview screening at the Ballston Commons 12 Cinema, 671 North Glebe Road, Arlington on Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. It will premiere on HBO on Feb. 15, and it will air again several times throughout February and March, which is Women's History Month.

 

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