The true story of the militant suffrage leader imprisoned in 1917 for picketing the White House and given 48 hours to prove her sanity or be committed to an insane asylum.

The Passion of Alice Paul

dpg Singularity Asked on February 26, 2016 in Drama.

Working title: The Passion of Alice Paul

Alternative logline:

When a radical suffrage leader is imprisoned in 1917 for picketing the White House she must prove her sanity to avoid being committed to an asylum.
(27 words)

I’m inclined toward “The true story…” lest a logline reader think I’m making it up.   I’m not.  It actually happened.

on May 15, 2016.
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10 Review(s)

I think it’s potentially a great tale waiting to be told, and i think your alternate version is closer to the mark. My issue is this —  was it her goal to actually “Prove her sanity?” (and if so, HOW would she specifically go about doing this?) In the asylum she goes on a hunger strike to continue her protest … Isn’t it her goal more along the lines of fighting the current (in 1917) chauvinistic government/ society to influence the amendment to allow woman to vote in the in 1917 General election?… All from the confines of an Insane Asylum..? To me, having her locked up in an asylum and still being prepared to fight the good fight has the potential for deep emotional ground, as opposed to her trying to escape being locked up in an Asylum (which paints her goal as more personal, as opposed to altruistic…)

Either way, I think you could include a specific antagonist she must fight against (either in prison or the asylum…) to personalize/ humanize the logline/ story more — is there someone  in this story that could wear that mantle?

Below is just my spin, but it’s running on her actually getting committed etc.. (and obviously not your story…)

“Sent to an insane asylum for picketing the White House, an impassioned activist fights torturous conditions and a chauvinistic system in an effort to allow woman a vote in the 1917 general election. (Based on a True Story)”

Anyway — best of luck with this DPG.

Tony Edward Samurai Reviewed on February 27, 2016.

You are correct in that in real life, her objective goal was to overcome male bigotry and win the vote for women.  That’s how the history books tell her story. But in reel life, we are choosing a shorter term, more urgent goal for the purpose of a plot.

One  lesson we have learned in adapting this  history to a movie is that the real life  goal doesn’t always work well as the reel life goal.  Particularly when the history is as messy, complicated and full of  contradictions as is the story of Alice Paul.

Why we have made that dramatic choice I could expatiate at length. But I will (uncharacteristically!) resist the urge and merely point out one messy fact in adapting  this history to drama:

The go-to  antagonist, the personification , the “face” of the male bigotry, is the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.  Can you have a greater antagonist  in an historical American drama?

But his role is more complicated than that.  The suffragists need him, the power and prestige of his office, to win suffrage.  So he’s not just the major obstacle, he’s also  the must-have “MacGuffin”,  the man women need to get the vote.   But he refuses to support woman suffrage  through a Constitutional Amendment.

Anyway,  thanks for your feedback.  Best of luck, Tony,  with your projects.

on February 28, 2016.

This is so correct. I am adapting a real life mysterious pandemic into my novel and have moved it from Northern China and East Russia to Haiti and the time from 1977  ( I do mention the earlier 1976 outbreak that caused the 1977 accidental release) Nothing about the real life events remains the same except the fact that a REAL pandemic was caused by a lab accident  and some government hid the information, choosing to blame it on a natural event. I took that one grain of  truth and decided that would make a great story. I do wish you lots of luck on this plot, I do recall it from my own reading of history and that era was filled with many rebels. I would love to see the logline for ‘Hell on Wheels’; Chinese laborers are exploited by evil magnates to build the first intercontinental railroad.

on March 27, 2017.
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Providing the premise deals with the socio-political agenda I think best to keep the story outside of the asylum, otherwise it runs the risk of needing a male version of Nurse Ratched and establishing a whole new set of conflicts.

Considering what asylums back then were like and the fact that she would no longer be able to fight for women’s rights, the risk of being committed is enough to give the story high stakes.

After being sentenced to an insane asylum for protesting outside the White House, a suffrage leader has 48 hours to prove her sanity so she can remain free to fight for women’s right to vote.

Nir Shelter Singularity Reviewed on February 27, 2016.

>>Considering what asylums back then were like and the fact that she would no longer be able to fight for women’s rights, the risk of being committed is enough to give the story high stakes.

Exactly, Nir Shelter.  The stakes are personal for her and political for all women.  If she’s committed, given laws at that time, she loses her freedom for who knows how many months or years.  And the suffrage movement loses its most forceful and audacious advocate.

Rather than start the story at the beginning of Alice Paul’s militant struggle in 1913,  our plot starts in media res, in 1917,  near the climax of her struggle to get President Woodrow Wilson to come out in favor of suffrage.

(Spoiler alert)

She avoids being committed, so there’s no flying over a cuckoo’s nest.  Woodrow Wilson capitulates, comes out in favor of suffrage–and then

The 3rd Act reversal and twist as the real villain in the story is  unmasked and must be confronted.

(Hopefully in a theater or streaming media near you in time for the 100th anniversary of women winning the vote in the U.S.)

Thanks for your feedback.

on February 28, 2016.
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Fair point Nir — but again, I can’t see how she could “prove her sanity”, or that there would be ANYTHING she could do to stop herself getting committed — she wasn’t committed because the establishment thought she was insane… she was committed because she was taking on the chauvinistic establishment, and it was the way they thought they could defuse the Silent Sentinals (or from what I know of the subject, which is limited).

My point is that the goal (in DPG’s posted logline) paints an almost selfish goal  — not that there’s anything wrong with that, it just doesn’t sit well with this particularly altruistic historical figure — your take does bring the goal back to her fighting for women’s right to vote.

“… I think best to keep the story outside of the asylum, otherwise it runs the risk of needing a male version of Nurse Ratched and establishing a whole new set of conflicts.”

… but even if it’s about avoiding being committed, isn’t there going to be a need for a physical/ human antagonist she contends with to avoid this?

Again Nir, I get your point, I’m just confused about what “Prove her sanity” would actually entail.

Tony Edward Samurai Reviewed on February 27, 2016.
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Proving her sanity entails proving that certain powerful people are conspiring for her to be falsely committed. If she manages to expose the conspiracy then she will prove that there is no justification for her to be committed i.e not insane.

As DPG elaborated she didn’t end up in an asylum and the the truth was surfaced one way or another, this means that the mechanism of the premise did work in reality and can make for a believable and interesting story.

Her own suffering should be but the tip whereas the rest of the ice burg is the fight for the greater good. In the same way that Gandhi suffered for India, his personal suffering was just a small part of the fight for his whole nation.

It’s these bigger stakes that will make the story particularly interesting. Therefore if the principle antagonist is a politician or rival chauvinist speaker and not a staff member in the asylum, women’s rights remain the stakes as appose to personal comfort.

Nir Shelter Singularity Reviewed on February 28, 2016.
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