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Milling the Militants: A Comical Absurdity (1913)


Main image of Milling the Militants: A Comical Absurdity (1913)
35mm, 483 feet, black & white, silent
DirectorPercy Stow
Production CompanyClarendon Film Company

Left looking after the children while his wife campaigns for women's votes, an aggreived husband dreams of punishing the suffragettes.

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A comedy commenting on the tactics of suffragettes and the action that some men would like to take against them. Mr Brown is left to look after the family while his wife takes part in a suffragette demonstration and militant action. He dreams that, as prime minister, he introduces legislation to suppress the suffragette movement and punishes them accordingly. In spite of it being a comedy the suffragette march looks particularly authentic with banners and onlookers. The tactics of the suffragettes such as smashing windows and arson are shown. From 1905 the suffragettes had become increasingly militant and the film reflects this militancy. In a series of scenes prefaced by intertitles outlining the suffragettes' misdemeanours, Mr Brown dreams of the punishments enacted. His wife is arrested and, for attacking policeman, is punished with hard labour in the streets. The women are also forced to smoke clay pipes which they find very difficult. For embarrassing Cabinet ministers the women are forced to dress as men and parade down the street. This punishment they find especially shameful as most of the women cry. The women are also placed in stocks and vilified by men and women. For using the tactics of hunger strikes, the women are placed in a ducking stool and plunged into a pond.

Initial viewing suggests that this is an anti-suffrage film. However, it can be viewed another way. Some of the punishments are decidedly medieval and exaggerated. The obvious discomfort of the women during their punishments could elicit sympathy from an audience. Furthermore, the ducking stool is associated with witchcraft and medieval punishment (as are the village stocks) and it could be argued that neither punishment had a place in a modern society. In spite of all his dreams of punishment, Mr Brown suffers when his wife returns as she awakens him with a bucket of cold water.

Simon Baker

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Video Clips
Complete film (7:10)
Politics and Film 1903-1935