This film is part of Free

Milling the Militants; A Comical Absurdity

Left with the kids while his wife campaigns for women's votes, an aggrieved husband dreams of punishing all suffragettes.

Comedy 1913 7 mins


This fascinating silent comedy - released at the height of suffragettism - reflects both the increasing militancy of the movement and the public response to it. When his suffragette wife goes off to campaign, leaving him to babysit, Mr Brown dreams of becoming prime minister and concocting new laws to punish her and her kind. From this synopsis, you might assume that Milling the Militants is an anti-suffragette film. But a close look throws up some doubts.

Mrs Brown might cut something of a comic figure, but her arrest for 'assaulting a policeman' is - even in Brown's dream - seen to be false. Her husband's imagined punishments, meanwhile, are either absurd, disproportionate or brutally medieval (the stocks for 'annoying cabinet ministers'; a ducking stool for hunger strikers), which surely elicits sympathy for the suffragette victims. By contrast, the dreamer's own real-life fate - a bucket of water from his wife for falling asleep instead of looking after his children - is clearly richly deserved.