Maud Watts, an inspirational, fictional character in the film Suffragette, tells us the story of a working-class woman who fought for women’s rights to vote.
Women’s basic rights such as voting, education, freedom of speech etc. are of vital importance. It has been proven more than once that the elimination of basic human rights for women destroys a country’s economy, political system, and many other spheres.
In the 21st century, we still have these mistreatments and inequality towards women in less economically developed countries. This is the reason why feminists still exist and actively fight to change the whole world’s perception of women.
In today’s civilized and developed countries, the battle started not too long ago. In the 20th century, women had no rights to vote in the United Kingdom and they fought severely to change this law.
When coming across the term “empowerment”, we usually think of an emotional and touching success story by a powerful motivational speaker. Let’s also think about alternative means of empowerment like books, films, quotes. They give a huge storm of energy.
For example, a good film about historical events transfers visual impressions and revives past events. Reading books, on the other, allow you to experience the events with the characters and look at the story through the eyes of a beholder. The characters become your idols and their quotes become your slogans of life and motivation.
A very similar case is Maud Watts from the film “Suffragette”. The film “Suffragette” commemorates the victory of women’s Suffrage movement in the UK and honors those who devoted their whole lives to enforce the law and defend women’s rights.
Who is Maud Watts?
Women’s fight for equality escalated in violence in 1912 and 1913 and is depicted in the film Suffragette. For the most part, the director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Horgan honor history books. However, as in any historical film, here again, the director and writer of the film don’t waste the opportunity to create their own chapters.
In fact, Maud Watts isn’t a real person. She is a composite of several personalities culled from testimonies and history books, diary entries on Suffragette movement. Maud’s story could have belonged to thousands of British women who fought for women’s rights to vote.
Maud is a representation of a strong, working-class Suffragette who fought for women’s right to vote. Carey Mulligan’s character, Maud Watts, is entirely fictional yet very plausible as the film itself is rooted in the history of the women’s suffrage movement and was written using original testimonies.
The Plot of the about Maud Watts
At the beginning of the film, Maud is depicted as an ordinary citizen who stays away from politics and works grueling hours in a laundry, until she starts noticing the inequality surrounding her.
What makes the film more striking is that Maud is married – she has a husband and a son. However, that doesn’t stop her to join the suffragettes and sacrifice her own life for one idea.
The plot of the film has several important picks accompanied with powerful quotes, which highlight the whole idea of the historical period drama film and the concept of women’s suffrage movement in the United Kingdom. The main character’s psychological evolution throughout the film gives a clue about the Suffragettes’ inner world.
The time Maud Watts realizes there is injustice and women should have a right to vote
Although unconsciously, Maud Watts starts understanding the concept and idea of the suffrage movement with the help of her workmate Violet. Violet constantly tries to spread their suffrage ideas inspired by Emmeline Pankhurst, the empowering leader of Suffrage movement, whose character was taken from history books.
Violet comes to the laundry and talks about the concept of women’s rights and the significance of basic human rights for women. Maud just listens and occasionally thinks, what if she had a girl.
She wouldn’t wish her daughter the same luck as hers. She asks the same question to her husband and she gets a short answer. “Your daughter will be like you.”
Maud gradually becomes interested in Violet’s activities and wants to witness her testimony. Unexpectedly, Violet gets severely beaten and Maud is pressured to read Violet’s testimony in front of the huge crowd of British judges.
She ends up telling her own story, and a thorough glance on her past and deep questions by the attorney somehow awakens her inner voice. That inner voice told her to raise awareness about the importance of women’s rights to vote and the Suffragettes’ movement.
At first, she doesn’t accept that she is a Suffragette, but gradually she becomes part of the movement, supporter and advocate of their political notion. The situation becomes clear when she takes part in a Suffragette protest and gets arrested.
In this part of the film, there is a demonstration of an evolution of a woman from having no ideas, no identity to shaping her own viewpoint and personality.
The unexpected cost of Maud Watt’s decision
After joining the Suffragette movement, Maud gets arrested and is persecuted by the local police. This turns her life upside down. A woman who fights for equal rights and opportunities, is being called a “disgrace”. Her husband, Sonny, is taunted with shame.
Maud ends up being kicked out of her house. She has no access to her son as the law says that her son belongs to the father. She hardly manages to see her son and the fatal moment of her life is sealed when Sonny gives their son up for adoption.
This part of the film portrays the biggest hardship of the heroine and the ridiculously discriminating laws against women and their disastrous consequences.
She looks at her son and says, “Your mother’s name is Maud Watts. Don’t ever forget! I’ll wait for you”.
Maud’s story of her fight for dignity is indeed very gripping and visceral, it is also very heart-breaking and inspirational. Maud is so persistent that she is willing to sacrifice her own family, her life in her fight for equality. She realized that and she destroyed her own life.
In this part of the film, we see the stereotypes of the rotten society and weakness of men to stand up and go against the taboos and laws to protect their wives and fight for the truth.
A quote by Maud Watts, from this part of the movie, can be empowering for many women.
All my life I’ve been respectful, done what men told me. Well, I can’t have that anymore.
Rejection and disrespect from society
Maud is shown being rejected throughout her life as a low class of the society because of her beliefs and for being a part of Suffrage movement. She walks along the street and people look at her with disgust. She quits her work at the laundry as it was impossible to work in such an unwanted atmosphere.
In the film we also witness harassment and violence towards these women. The women, who are not primarily from educated classes but value and understand the concept of freedom, simply want a peaceful protest.
However, their peaceful protest ends up to a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the Brutal State, which radicalizes and turns it to violence.
Maud is treated brutally by local police. During her hunger strike in prison, she is subjected to brutal force-feeding, which was one of the major issues of Suffrage movement.
Throughout the film, you can feel her sorrow, her hardships, the disrespect, rejection, humiliation and her willingness to continue the battle. She questions men’s strength as they manipulate the Suffragettes and betray them multiple times during testimonies, giving them hope for a change.
A quote by her from the film is very significant and is considered the key quote showing the meaning of her battle.
My job is to enforce the law.
We break windows, we burn things because wars the only language men listen to. Cause you’ve beaten us and betrayed us and there’s nothing else left.
Maud Watts also has a source of inspiration, a book called “Dreams”
When Maud had no choice but finding a shelter in a church and pregnant Violet had to leave the group, Emilie, one of the active and devoted Suffragettes of the group, gifts her an inspirational book, “Dreams”.
She says to always keep this book and read it very carefully, as it inspired all of the fantastic women in the Suffrage movement.
She gets her motivational, enthusiastic, faithful ideas, dreams and hopes from this book. Maud is sure that no police officer can calm them down as they are half of the human race. During her conversation with the hypocrite police officer, Benedict, she says,
What are you gonna do? Lock us all up? We’re in every home, we’re half the human race, you can’t stop us all.
The final quote of hers sums up the film and highlights her faith and confidence in fairness of Suffragette movement.
I’m worth no more, no less than you. We will win.
Maud is right. Women, 50% of the population, cannot be unheard.
In the last victorious part of the film, the Suffragettes decide to attend the Derby when King George V is also attending. Their plan is to step in front of the cameras and unfurl their banners. Maud witnesses Emilie step into the track and get trampled to death, making a big clutter.
Emily’s funeral becomes the last sacrifice for the victory of the Suffragettes that brings the King’s attention to women’s rights.
The film ends scrolling down the list of the countries which followed the UK or enforced the law on women’s rights to vote.
- Norway 1913
- Russia 1917
- Armenia 1917
- Australia, Germany, Poland 1918
- USA 1920
- Brazil 1932
- Turkey 1934
- France 1944
- Italy 1945
- China, India 1949
- Mexico 1953
- Switzerland 1971
- Jordan 1974
- Nigeria 1976
- Qatar 2003
- Saudi Arabia- Women are promised voting rights
In 1918, women’s rights were partially recognized in Britain. The 1918 act gave the vote to women over 30 only if they met minimum property qualifications or were married to a man who did.
Women could also vote if they were a university graduate. Only in 1928, equal suffrage rights were granted, just 18 days before Emmeline Pankhurst, the real leader of the militant WSPU, died.
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