Films for Women's History Month Discussion/Jan 1998

Query From Darcy Martin 14 Jan 1998

As a graduate student member of our Women's Studies Steering Committee, I've been asked to seek recommendations from H-Women subscribers of successful film presentations, perhaps with panel discussions, during Women's History month. We're currently working on our activities and are pressing rather quickly up against the window of opportunity. Thanks.

[See also Films on Women in Early America [Ed.]

From: Sonja M. Barclay SMB 15 Jan 1998

Last year we used a series of four films for Women's History Month to provide a spectrum of views of what women's history entails.

The first was "Rosie the Riveter." For many students, this was a film that made them say "A-ha!" Since most of them could relate to women from that era (grandmothers for traditional age students, mothers for some non-traditional students), it helped to make it very personal. That particular film generated a lengthy spontaneous discussion in which a number of men in the group felt comfortable in participating.

The second was "Hearts and Hands." This video was accompanied by a mini-quilt show with about a dozen quilts and lots of books with many wonderful pictures of more quilts. Students who attended this film were struck with how creative the women were who made the quilts. Students sometimes see historical women of the everyday variety as a sort of paper cut-out doll with no interests or creative life. They believe these women just sort of drifted through life keeping the hearth warm, making soap, dipping candles and all of the other everyday production that kept the families going. This film helped them see that there was a creative spark in each of those women and therefore some sort of personality. They truly enjoyed the film and discussion that followed.

The third was "Ida B. Wells: Passion for Justice." This film was tied in with the idea of women and activism. Once again, it was a picture of women outside of the "expected" realm of activity.

The final film was "The Burning Times," which took students further back historically and helped them look at society in a different light. The midwives and healers and herbalists who were murdered as a result of their knowledge and experience was a different view from that which many students had before viewing the film. This led to a discussion that ranged from women's spirituality to the patriarchal structure that allowed those women to be persecuted.

Hope these suggestions are helpful. The films are not brand new and should be easy to find (our library budget is not very expansive!). The film does not have to be brand new when the discussions are exciting!

Of course, I'm just waiting to see "Midwife's Tale," to be shown on PBS (in my area) on January 19th.

From Kriste Lindenmeyer 15 Jan 1998

There are, of course, lots of possibilities for a film series during women's history month. We used "American Women and War" as a theme one year. It was very successful and Michael Birdwell created an extensive film bibliography for this effort that I'd be happy to share with anyone.

We usually show several films during the month. Last year the 1970s film, "Norma Rae" got a very positive response. Since my students are almost all from "right to work" Tennessee, I was taken back by how much the students bought into the union rhetoric of this film. Perhaps many had family members who had worked in textile mills, but I doubt it. The showing stimulated good discussion in several of my courses on a variety of gender and labor topics. It was a pleasant surprise.

From janet coryell <> 15 Jan 1998

I like the film Hearts & Hands because it places women's quilting into context in multiple ways--deals with the industrial revolution in America, slave quilts, etc.

From Lynn Weiner 15 Jan 1998

We have had some success with these films:

"Union Maids" (and the panel consisted of union activists from the 1940s-90s)

"Rosie the Riveter" (and the panel included a woman WW2 factory worker)

"Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice"

From Myra Rich 15 Jan 1998

There are so many good films that it's hard to know where to begin.

For the colonial/revolutionary period, look at the new Midwife's Tale and Mary Silliman's War. Then there's The Women of Hull House, Women of Summer (about the summer program for working women at Bryn Mawr during the 20s and early 30s), With Babies and Banners (the GM strike), Union Maids and of course the classic Rosie the Riveter. Also One Woman, One Vote

From Marta Jenell Effinger 15 Jan 1998

I would suggest the documentary on Ida B. Wells, by Earl Greaves and narrated by Toni Morrison. I think it's from the American Experience series.

Also, I would recommend Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust about a Gullah family preparing to make their migration to the mainland during the early 1900s.

Just a note, as a graduate candidate in theatre and drama, I am always curious why there are not more activities that encourage individuals to go to see a play by some of the outstanding women playwrights and directors. I hope that you will take a look at some of the works being produced in your area and encourage individuals to support playwrights, directors, stage actresses and other women of the theatre.

From Maria Elena Raymond 15 Jan 1998

Please check the H-Women website at http://h-net.msu/edu/~women

I believe there is a syllabus of women's history films, and there is a detailed discussion about using Ulrich's Midwife's Tale (the film). You may find other movie suggestions on the bibliography page. Some of the threads include discussion of use and usefulness in panel discussions, classroom, et al.

From Kelly Allen 16 Jan 1998

Check the website for the National Women's History Project. They will have a lot of suggestions. They also have a catalog you can order and it will arrive *quickly*, then you can order whatever videos you may want. Their e-mail address is and website at

From Miranda E Morris 19 Jan 1998

I would like to recommend a film that got far too little publicity when it came out in 95/96 -(I think) and its title certainly doesn't make it leap out as a women's film. "War Stories" looks at about ten New Zealand women's experiences of the Second World War. Interviews are interspersed with old film footage and the women come from widely different backgrounds.

Another film that I feel is a must is Marilyn Waring's "Counting for Nothing." It is quite old now, perhaps 1989, and was produced in Canada, but her straight forward and humourous look at the absurdities of the world economy and women's place is, if anything, more relevant now than it was when it first came out. She wrote a book which was published under the same title herebut I think has a different one in the States.

From Melody Ann Moss 19 Jan 1998

I must disagree with the recommendation of the film "The Burning Times" for Women's History Month. Though clearly well-intentioned, this film is not accepted by historians of the European witch hunts because of many outright falsities (e.g., the numbers of women persecuted, or that most accused witches were healers). This film is very useful for discussions on the current situation of women living under patriarchy, but it is not at all usable as a documentary of the witch hunts. The only film that I am aware of that does the witch hunts any justice in an historical sense is "Three Sovereigns for Sarah," about the Salem witch trials.