Meryl Streep, Powerful Voice For Equality, Plays Women’s Rights Leader Emmeline Pankhurst in ‘Suffragette’

The suffragette story may be old, but there’s a lot about the early 20th century women’s struggle for the vote that applies today. Meryl Streep, who plays Emmeline Pankhurst in the new movie, Suffragette, brings that message home. In her role as the “militant women’s rights leader who gave voice of millions of oppressed women,” Streep addresses the inequality of the day through Pankhurst’s voice.

“We do not want to be lawbreakers. We want to be lawmakers. Never surrender, never give up the fight.”

Meryl has already made her passion for equality clear. Streep, along with Jennifer Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, and many others, “hooted and hollered” in support of Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars last February. “To every woman who gave birth,” said Arquette, “To every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

At the Women in the World Summit, Meryl spoke about the difficulties of drawing empathy from men in the audience, and finding ways to allow men to “feel like they know what I feel.” Streep also made a PSA for Equality Now, an international human rights organization that advocates for the rights of women and girls around the world. In the video, Streep talks about the reality of gender inequality, even in the life of a wealthy, successful actress like Meryl herself.

“Even in the mildest way, I’ve experienced discrimination in my life. Believe it or not! Most women have.”

Suffragette allows Meryl to say a lot of things on the subject of women’s equality. The film follows the story of Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of Britain’s Women’s Social and Political Union, and leader of the struggle for women’s right to vote. Maud, one of Pankhurst’s young followers, says, “All my life I’ve been respectful, done what men told me, but I can’t ‘ave that anymore.”

Meryl Streep, in her character of Emmeline, has inspiration for Maud. Streep tells her that women need to “defy the government and define their own destinies.” Meryl has some powerful scenes as Emmeline leads the women in using militant tactics after the years of peaceful protests failed.

Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan (who both worked with Meryl Streep on the film The Iron Lady), is about making history in more ways than one. It is also the first movie to shoot at the British Houses of Parliament.

Suffragette, starring Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter, and Carey Mulligan, will open the BFI London Film Festival on October 7 before its theatre release on October 30.

[Image via the NY Daily News]

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