Directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Angelina Jolie, the movie Changeling tells the story of a 1920s single working mother called Christine Collins who is dispatched to a mental asylum because she refuses to believe that a boy sent to her by the authorities is her long lost son.

The boy is indeed an imposter but instead of being helped to find her real son, Christine is branded delusional and a liar. At the asylum she is subjected to vicious bullies who threaten to give her electric shock therapy. She begins to realise that women who challenge the system don’t live to tell the tale.

These days, laws have been passed to help maintain gender equality, but this has certainly not always been the case. In the nineteenth century, women had no political rights whatsoever and were regarded as children in society. Queen Victoria, who reigned at the time, supported this treatment and did little to empower women.

In 1870, she had written: “Let women be what God intended, a helpmate for man, but with totally different duties and vocations.”

Before the Representation of the People Act 1918, women in Britain did not have the right to vote. This was because many men in Parliament thought that women didn’t understand how Parliament worked, with protestations from women often being ignored.

The Suffragettes, a women’s rights union founded by Millicent Fawcett in 1897, pushed hard to change the law. And, after an intense struggle, women finally won the right to vote.

However, they still had a long way to go before their voice was fully heard. In the 1950s, many women were forced into asylums for being typhoid carriers. Although they had recovered from the disease, they were considered a public health risk because they were still excreting the bacterium.

They were condemned to a life of isolation and, although many entered the asylum sane, the harrowing conditions would often torment their minds – turning them insane and fragile. 

In Britain, 43 women were sent to Long Grove Hospital in Epsom, Surrey; a place where, once admitted, a patient would never leave. The women were treated like objects, and completely fenced in with doors locked at all times.

Jeanie Kennett, a ward manager who worked at Long Grove for 40 years, told the BBC that life at the asylum was a basic existence for the women and that living there was like being in prison.

"They're somebody's loved ones, they're somebody's mother, or sister, everybody had forgotten about them - they were just locked away," she said. 

Women’s lives were thrown away because of this injustice. But despite the troubles women have had to face, their enormous strength has brought about great change in society.

In a recent survey, conducted by Tickbox.net, 1,200 women were asked to choose who they felt was the world’s most inspirational woman. The number one choice with 36.3 per cent of the vote was the double Nobel Prize winning scientist, Marie Curie.

Her thirst for knowledge and change resulted in the discovery of radioactivity – a ground-breaking method of treating cancer. She decided to become a teacher because, not only did it enable her to pass her wisdom onto others but, during such a time of repression and poverty, it was the only way that would enable her to become independent.

Second in the poll with 23.8 per cent of the vote was Mother Theresa, another Nobel Prize winner. She established the order ‘Missionaries of Charity’ - loving and caring for those people who were shunned by society.

In her diary she once wrote, “poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health.” Though often criticized by others, Mother Theresa didn’t let this stop her achieve what she set out to do.

The third inspirational woman on the list was Princess Diana with 22.6 per cent. As well as the media scrutiny she was frequently subjected to, Diana was renowned for her charity projects including the AIDS awareness campaign.

In a speech in 2001, former American President Bill Clinton said: “Princess Diana sat on the sickbed of a man with AIDS and held his hand. She showed the world that people with AIDS deserve not isolation, but compassion and kindness. It helped change the world's opinion, and gave hope to people with AIDS.”

Like these women, it was through sheer courage and determination that Christine Collins ensured that her voice was heard. Although the Changeling contains all the elements a Hollywood movie should possess, Collins was in fact a real person who suffered at the hands of the police.

Her campaign against police corruption actually resulted in a change of the law meaning that women could no longer be thrown into a psychiatric unit without proper assessment.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Angelina Jolie spoke about the amazing achievements of the lady she portrayed. “Christine fought so hard under such incredible circumstances for the rights of other women. It was a real story that I thought sent a positive message about what you can accomplish. About democracy in action."

Results of the Inspirational Women survey by Tickbox.net

Marie Curie                           36.3%

Mother Theresa                     23.8%

Princess Diana                      22.6%

Anita Roddick                       16.4%

JK Rowling                           16.0%

Rosa Parks                          15.5%

Queen Elizabeth II                12.8%

Margaret Thatcher                 12.7%

Ellen MacArthur                     12.5.%

Aung San Suu Kyi                 12.0%       

Benazir Bhutto                      10.2%

Germaine Greer                     7.1%

Other (please specify)            5.9%

Angelina Jolie                        5.8%

Oprah Winfrey                       4.6%

Michelle Obama                     3.3%

Hilary Clinton                         2.6%

Madonna                               2.0%

The Changeling is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray

FemaleFirst: Fiona Haran

Directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Angelina Jolie, the movie Changeling tells the story of a 1920s single working mother called Christine Collins who is dispatched to a mental asylum because she refuses to believe that a boy sent to her by the authorities is her long lost son.

The boy is indeed an imposter but instead of being helped to find her real son, Christine is branded delusional and a liar. At the asylum she is subjected to vicious bullies who threaten to give her electric shock therapy. She begins to realise that women who challenge the system don’t live to tell the tale.

These days, laws have been passed to help maintain gender equality, but this has certainly not always been the case. In the nineteenth century, women had no political rights whatsoever and were regarded as children in society. Queen Victoria, who reigned at the time, supported this treatment and did little to empower women.

In 1870, she had written: “Let women be what God intended, a helpmate for man, but with totally different duties and vocations.”

Before the Representation of the People Act 1918, women in Britain did not have the right to vote. This was because many men in Parliament thought that women didn’t understand how Parliament worked, with protestations from women often being ignored.

The Suffragettes, a women’s rights union founded by Millicent Fawcett in 1897, pushed hard to change the law. And, after an intense struggle, women finally won the right to vote.

However, they still had a long way to go before their voice was fully heard. In the 1950s, many women were forced into asylums for being typhoid carriers. Although they had recovered from the disease, they were considered a public health risk because they were still excreting the bacterium.

They were condemned to a life of isolation and, although many entered the asylum sane, the harrowing conditions would often torment their minds – turning them insane and fragile. 

In Britain, 43 women were sent to Long Grove Hospital in Epsom, Surrey; a place where, once admitted, a patient would never leave. The women were treated like objects, and completely fenced in with doors locked at all times.

Jeanie Kennett, a ward manager who worked at Long Grove for 40 years, told the BBC that life at the asylum was a basic existence for the women and that living there was like being in prison.

"They're somebody's loved ones, they're somebody's mother, or sister, everybody had forgotten about them - they were just locked away," she said. 

Women’s lives were thrown away because of this injustice. But despite the troubles women have had to face, their enormous strength has brought about great change in society.

In a recent survey, conducted by Tickbox.net, 1,200 women were asked to choose who they felt was the world’s most inspirational woman. The number one choice with 36.3 per cent of the vote was the double Nobel Prize winning scientist, Marie Curie.

Her thirst for knowledge and change resulted in the discovery of radioactivity – a ground-breaking method of treating cancer. She decided to become a teacher because, not only did it enable her to pass her wisdom onto others but, during such a time of repression and poverty, it was the only way that would enable her to become independent.

Second in the poll with 23.8 per cent of the vote was Mother Theresa, another Nobel Prize winner. She established the order ‘Missionaries of Charity’ - loving and caring for those people who were shunned by society.

In her diary she once wrote, “poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health.” Though often criticized by others, Mother Theresa didn’t let this stop her achieve what she set out to do.

The third inspirational woman on the list was Princess Diana with 22.6 per cent. As well as the media scrutiny she was frequently subjected to, Diana was renowned for her charity projects including the AIDS awareness campaign.

In a speech in 2001, former American President Bill Clinton said: “Princess Diana sat on the sickbed of a man with AIDS and held his hand. She showed the world that people with AIDS deserve not isolation, but compassion and kindness. It helped change the world's opinion, and gave hope to people with AIDS.”

Like these women, it was through sheer courage and determination that Christine Collins ensured that her voice was heard. Although the Changeling contains all the elements a Hollywood movie should possess, Collins was in fact a real person who suffered at the hands of the police.