Suffragette is not an easy film to sit and watch. It brings home the awful level of violence, abuse and sheer ignorance women faced as they tried to change the law. Without their courage, determination and sacrifice, women’s suffrage would never have happened.
It has to be hoped that today’s generation of young women will not forget the battle fought on their behalf. But equally none of us must be under any illusion of the progress that still needs to be made for true equality to be achieved in this society. Nor must we forget the still too many countries where women’s rights are overlooked and ignored.
Much in the film was familiar, but one image jumped out from the screen: the original footage of the funeral of Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral. And there, unexpectedly, behind the carriage carrying her coffin was a procession of (male) clergy. So far it has not been possible to identify who they were but crucially they were there – not one or two quietly waiting at the church for the official service to begin, but here, amidst the massed crowds in a significant gesture of support.
Their presence was even more surprising and wonderful as the Church, including within its own organisation, has not always been at the forefront on women’s suffrage. But this is where the Church should always be, standing up for justice and equality, publicly and very visibly showing its support for all who have been neglected, overlooked or who society is trying to ignore.
Those grainy newsreel images spoke of the true mission of the Church, a sign of the Kingdom of God amidst the rough and tumble of society. Whoever those vestmented clerics were, they pointed to the hope of what the Church can be.