Episode 30: The forgotten women of early filmmaking

This week we touch on gender in film history with Professor of Film at Columbia University School of the Arts, Jane Gaines. During the current #timesup moment, there is an implicit suggestion that women have been waiting a long time for a higher status in the entertainment industry but also often a suggestion that progress has been made but not fast enough. But a different picture emerges when we look at these shifts in a larger historical context. More women were working above and below the line in American cinema during the silent era than are working today. And this active role in filmmaking includes women of color and women in countries around the world. We have thought of early film-making as male dominated, but how do we account for the collective forgetting of the vital roles women played during this transitional moment? How did they acquire this power? What lasting impact did they have on how Hollywood told stories? Where were they? But also, where did they go? And how can their stories help us to understand the power struggles impacting Hollywood today?

Here are some more of the things mentioned in this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

Pink-Slipped: What Happened to Women in the Silent Film Industries? (Jane M. Gaines, University of Illinois Press)

The Women Film Pioneers Project

Happily Ever After by David Bordwell

Some of the amazing women film pioneers Jane mentioned during the interview:
Marion E. Wong
Drusilla Dunjee Houston
June Mathis
Fern Andra
Marguerite Bertsch
Francesca Bertini
Gene Gauntier

And some of the films mentioned:
The Curse of the Quon Gwon
Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise)
Madame X (influenced by the novel East Lynne by Mrs. Henry Wood)

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