Iron Jawed Angels Discussion Questions

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Analyzing the HBO documentary, 'Iron Jawed Angels', can be an eye-opening experience for your middle or high school students. Use these discussion questions to help students delve deeper into the themes of the film.

HBO Documentary: Iron Jawed Angels

This documentary takes a deep dive into four activists in the women's suffrage movement and the eventual success of passing an amendment to afford women the right to vote. Help your middle or high school students understand the complexities of the movement with these discussion questions. Topics explore the major players presented in the film, the backlash they faced as a result of their activism, and the methods used by HBO to modernize the story to attract today's audience. You may choose to use these questions for a one-on-one conversation with a single student or provide a list of questions to student teams. You may also use them as a springboard for a whole group discussion.

Division Among the Ranks

  • Alice and Lucy were portrayed very differently than Catt and Anna. Describe each of these women in light of their approach to activism. Do you think that the more aggressive efforts of Alice and Lucy were more successful than the systematic methods of Catt and Anna? Explain your reasoning? What contributions did each ''team'' make to the movement? Would women's suffrage have come to fruition if only one of the groups was active? Why or why not?
  • Racial tensions are highlighted in the film, particularly with the interaction of Ida B. Wells and Alice before a demonstration in Washington D.C. What was the crux of this disagreement? What valid points were made on each side of the conflict? Was one of them right and the other wrong? Do you think they should have banded together rather than disagreeing? Why or why not?
  • Cite the significant differences between the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and the National Woman's Party (NWP). Do you prefer one over the other? Why or why not? Which group do you think you would have been involved in if you were an activist during this time? Explain fully.

Activism Attacked

  • When groups of suffragists are attacked by onlookers, the President does not take swift action, nor does local law enforcement. Why do you think they stood back and allowed this violence to happen? Do you think they should have intervened? Why or why not? Do you think the women knew the risk of injury they faced as a result of demonstrations?
  • Do you think the arrests of women suffragists was a form of violence? Why or why not? Does radical change require risk? Explain fully. Would you be willing to take such a risk for something you believe in? If so, what? If not, why not? Do you think any of the women's actions deserved consequences? If so, which ones?
  • How does the film portray the jail experiences of the women? Do you think their hunger strike was an effective tool to persuade the country's leaders to pay attention to their cause? Why or why not? Why do you think they were force fed instead of being left alone? Do you think the harm done to them during imprisonment made them stronger in their stance or served to deter them? Provide details from the film to support your answers.

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