Feminist Media Histories is delighted to celebrate the 10th biennial conference on Women and the Silent Screen, held May 25-29, 2019, at the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. For twenty years scholars gathered at this conference have explored the dynamic contributions women made to early movie cultures as filmmakers, critics, audiences, and more in many global contexts. In celebration of this milestone, we are pleased to make available a suite of articles on silent cinema published over the past five years in Feminist Media Histories. All are available for free download between May 25-31, 2019.
Scholarship on women and the silent screen showcases the extraordinary range and depth of women’s engagement with the new medium of motion pictures in the early decades of the twentieth century. We’re pleased to make available new English translations of writing by pioneering Soviet filmmaker Esfir Shub, a transcription of director Lois Weber’s 1913 speech to the Los Angeles Woman’s Club, and Christina Lane’s account of an early film production by Ruth Bryan Owen, the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress from the southern states. Women like Anita Maris Boggs and Mary Hallock-Greenewalt believed in the educational power of early visual media, as scholars Laura Isabel Serna and Anne Ciecko reveal. Reform movements of the early twentieth century were also fueled by cinema, as Constance Balides demonstrates in her analysis of sociological films, Jennifer Horne documents in her account of the Better Films Movement, and Shawn Shimpach reveals in his analysis of the early social survey movement. Annie Fee’s examination of “midinettes,” activist cinema girls in 1920s Paris, demonstrates how active women were in early movie fan cultures, as does Sumiko Higashi’s survey of the early fan magazine Photoplay. We’ve also included articles on Greta Garbo, Brazilian star Eva Nil, would-be starlets in early Hollywood, and Nancy Astor’s 1919 campaign for parliament. The memoirs and autobiographies of early female screenwriters provide a vital roadmap of women’s experiences during these formative years as well, as historian Liz Clarke demonstrates.
Congratulations to all attending Women and the Silent Screen in Amsterdam!