“Hard Times in Suffragette City:” Drawing Connections between the Women’s Rights Movement of the Early 1900’s and Tracy Chevalier’s “Falling Angels”

Suffragette,-Emily-WiSuffragettes-1

Upon reading Tracy Chevalier’s Falling Angels, I noticed that there was a great deal of variation within the different perspectives from each of the characters in this novel.  The characters in the novel alone, represent different views of feminism. Each character had something different to say and gave us something different to think about.  Kitty Coleman, is a prime example of person we watch grow up before our own eyes.  Kitty represents the youthful side of this social transformation that swept England during the time this novel takes place. This movement was known as the “Suffragette” Movement; a women’s rights movement that took place from the turn of the century (i.e., early 1900s) up until the Mid-1910s.  I felt that the female characters do a great job at the different mix of views of what a feminist was during this time.  An example of Kitty’s perspective of the Suffragette movement comes to us towards the end, when she argues with her husband Richard about her involvement with the suffragettes.  Kitty narrates:

“Richard’s response was predictable—a rage he contained in front of the police but unleashed in the cab home.  He shouted about the family name, about the disgrace to his mother, about the uselessness of the cause.  All of this I had known to expect, from hearing of the reactions of other women’s husbands. Indeed, I have been lucky to go this long without Richard complaining.  He has thought my activities with the WSPU a harmless hobby, to be dabbed in between tea parties.  It is only now he truly understands that I, too, am a suffragette.” (197)

This narrative passage shows the reactions that one would see, not only from the point of view of people representing the news media of this time, but what goes on behind the closed doors of the private lives of women in England.

But not all women were supportive of the suffragettes.  A character who represents this opposition is Lavinia Waterhouse; a woman of self-proclaimed etiquette and represents the snobby, elitist views of what a woman should be.  For example, we can see on pages 102 and 103, an etiquette guide to how one presents his or herself at get this… a funeral! And no, she did not focus on it from the point of views of respect and how one should behave which would be understandable yet obvious etiquette.  All she describes in detail, is what one should wear. This has everything to do with the suffragettes because even though many of them were either of middle class/upper class, many of them believed in breaking out of the sexist stereotypes that were given to what a woman was supposed to with her life and not conform to this elitist perspective of what a women should be. To conclude, I believe that the influence of the suffragette movement in England is greatly depicted in this novel.  Furthermore it gives the reader a look at the struggle from personal levels of characters who grow and learn about who they really are and they want to do with their lives.  And in this case that I being part of “suffragette city.”

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