Understanding of Women Suffrage as Depicted in Ken Burns’ Film

Understanding of Women Suffrage

It would not be possible to outline the extent of suffrage of women during the particular times in context, but Ken Burns uses the most relevant stylistic devices and tools to demonstrate the role of public relations in propagating this vice (1999). The aspects that structured the society were devised by how the particular individuals in the society appealed to the masses especially the male population in the spread of information. Doing right like allowing women equal rights with men was considered as bad publicity. A typical example was the unpopular cultural aspect that denied the girl child a right to education just as the tale of Susan B. Anthony. Another similar issue is the inability to file for divorce an essential aspect that Elizabeth Cady Stanton would address. To fair well with the public, many members of the society ignored these issues propagating the suffrage.

As the role of public relations in suffrage is established, Ken Burns coins the phrase “Not for ourselves alone, but that we may teach others,” to sum up the relevance and theme of the film, and underscore the attitude of the activists, Stanton and Anthony. Their primary aim was to transform the American society to a tolerant culture that had a place for everyone regardless of gender, race, and other aspects. Ideally, such a movements and transformations would be lessons to others and generations to come. They would learn never to seat back in the face of injustices like inequality as inspired by gender. They learn to fight for the right to vote, freedom of expression, freedom of movement and equal marriage rights in a society dominated by men (Burns, 1999).

In a society characterized by activism for selves and others, journalism and media involvement would affect the impacts of such movements. In such a biased society, there was little airtime and coverage for the likes of Anthony and Stanton, who propelled the agenda of National Women Suffrage Association (NWSA) that would feature such elements as marriage rights, sexual rights, and others. Shamelessly, the media had a place for biographers who shared unconstructive issues as women emotions. This hindered the NWSA movement. Nevertheless, with increased awareness, Ken Burns demonstrates that coverage would grow and highlight the plight of women in a civilized society.

As journalists and the media affected the effectiveness of suffrage movements, the counter movements were noticeable, and their efforts were made possible through public relations. Jeffersonian democracy was relating and affiliating with white males at the expense of women and people of color. The minorities were singled out an aspect that ogres well with the majority of the American public. The film further points out the Jacksonian period in the 1830s that marginalized women further and other minorities. The manner in which information was shared between individuals was structured to appeal to those who had a place for inequality. The counter movements would seek to have an upper hand over such the media, journalists, and other tools of communication so as to shape the information that reached the public. In this light, public relations were used as a tool for spreading unpopular policies that would sideline the vulnerable members of the society. This would make it hard for the likes of Stanton and Anthony to influence the public in the fight for fundamental rights for women and other vulnerable members of society.




Burns, K. (Director). (1999). Not for ourselves alone: The story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony [Motion Picture].


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