Suffragette is set at the turn of the 20th century. It’s based on historical events involving the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), an organisation that campaigned for women to get the vote. This was a grim time for women, who not only had no right to vote, but also no right to own property once they married and no rights to custody of their own children. The movie focuses on one woman, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), who lives with her husband, Sonny (Ben Whishaw), and their son George (Adam Michael Dodd).
Maud has worked in a laundry since she was 7 years old. She worked part time when she was younger but has worked full time since she turned 12. She admires fellow worker Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff), who is an advocate for WSPU. Maud goes to her first meeting and is arrested and sent to gaol along with several other women. Once released, Maud is forbidden by Sonny to go to any more meetings but she goes anyway. When the women realise that peaceful protests aren’t achieving anything, they turn to more militant activities like blowing up postboxes and bombing a politician’s house.
Maud is arrested again and this time goes on a hunger strike in prison. She is force fed by the prison guards but remains defiant. When she returns home, Sonny throws her out of the house and forbids her to see George. Maud also loses her job and ends up living in a church. She is helped and encouraged by her friends Violet, Edith (Helena Bonham Carter) and Emily Davison (Natalie Press). The women all draw great inspiration from Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), who famously tells them to ‘never give up, never stop fighting’.
Suffragette has some violence. For example:
- Violet throws stones at shop windows, smashing them.
- A man is knocked down in a crush.
- Maud enters her boss’s office and finds him having sex with Violet’s daughter Maggie, who is about 12. Not a lot is shown, but it’s obvious what’s happening.
- Brutal policemen punch and kick women at a protest.
- Women are forcibly undressed in prison.
- Taylor starts to molest Maud and she presses the iron she’s holding onto his hand.
- Maud blows up postboxes.
- Maud attacks Sonny for giving George up for adoption.
- Several women throw a bomb into a politician’s house, which then explodes.
- In prison, Maud is forced into a chair, restrained and force fed with tubes down her throat. They pour food in through a funnel while guards hold her down.
- Emily Davison throws herself in front of a horse at the races, killing herself and injuring a rider.
Suffragette includes some sexual references. In particular, the references to Taylor sexually abusing Maggie and Maud are clear and disturbing.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
There is some use of substances in this Suffragette. For example:
- Several characters smoke, including Maud and Violet.
- Characters drink alcohol at the races.
Nudity and sexual activity
Suffragette has a scene that shows a rear shot of a nude woman when she’s stripped in prison.
None of concern
There is some coarse language in Suffragette.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Suffragette is a historical drama based on events at the turn of the 20th century.
It’s important for older teenagers to know the story of women’s struggle to gain the same rights as men. For example, the movie mentions that over 1000 British women were imprisoned at this time. But the movie shows the brutal nature of some of these events and includes scenes involving abuse of children. Therefore it’s more suited to a mature audience and is not recommended for viewers under 15 years.
The main message from this movie is to stand up for what you believe in and never give up, no matter what the cost.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with older children include:
- the importance of equal rights for women
- the struggle to obtain those rights and the need to value them highly.
You could also talk with your children about questions like these:
- Are there better ways to gain changes in the law than by civil disobedience?
- Why do some countries still refuse to give women equal rights?