Silent Women, Pioneers of Cinema
Edited by Melody Bridges and Cheryl Robson
With a Foreword by Bryony Dixon, Silent Film Curator at the British Film Institute
Named one of the Best Film Books of the Year by Huffington Post
Covers the hidden history of cinema’s diverse beginnings including American, European and African-American female filmmakers, cinematographers, editors, critics and screenwriters.
Essential reading for students of film studies, media, culture and gender/women studies.
Taps into the current debate about discrimination within the media and creative industries.
Contributors include film experts Kevin Brownlow, Bryony Dixon and Shelley Stamp.
Voted the best book published about silent cinema in THE SILENT LONDON POLL OF 2016
#1 Amazon Best Seller: Silent Film
Concludes with a chapter by feature film director Maria Giese, who instigated the Civil Liberties investigation into sexism in Hollywood, on the current status of women behind the camera in Hollywood today.
About the Book
Why have women such as Alice Guy-Blache, the creator of narrative cinema, been written out of film history? Why have so many women working behind the scenes in film been rendered invisible and silent for so long?
Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema explores the incredible contribution of women at the dawn of cinema when, surprisingly, more women were employed across the board in the film industry than they are now. It also looks at how women helped to shape the content, style of acting and development of the movie business in their roles as actors, writers, editors, cinematographers, directors and producers. In addition, we describe how women engaged with and influenced the development of cinema in their roles as audience, critics, fans, reviewers, journalists and the arbiters of morality in films. And finally, we ask when the current discrimination and male domination of the industry will give way to allow more women access to the top jobs.
In addition to its historical focus on women working in film during the silent film era, the term silent also refers to the silencing and eradication of the enormous contribution that women have made to the development of the motion picture industry.
“What is perhaps most compelling about Silent Women is its documentation of the sheer graft and willpower behind these pioneering women’s work. Favouring historicity over critical theory, it does that most noble task of telling the stories that need to be told..” Lara Williams, London Review of Books, October 2016
“You may come to this spry slice of film history prepared to celebrate a handful of women who helped shape the movies in their blinking infancy. The surprise of the essays collected here is their sheer volume in every corner of a business apparently better able to accommodate female talent then than now..” Danny Leigh, Financial Times, July 2016
“Silent Women, in uncovering a diverse range of female voices from the past, offers a variety of present voices… On this evidence, the relative diversity of the industry’s past should shame it into taking action in the future.” Pamela Hutchinson, Sight & Sound, April 2016
“Silent Women is a book that needed to be written, and it will raise the consciousness of most readers who haven’t made a study of the subject of just how male-orientated the history of cinema has been. It’s a fascinating journey into the untold history of a largely lost era of film..” Greg Jameson, Entertainment Focus, March 2016
“. . . a lively collection, opening up an increasingly vibrant field, which promises to raise a diversity of questions for viewers, makers and teachers of film about women’s role world-wide in the emergence of cinema..” Christine Gledhill
“This book is inspirational reading for any woman who dreams to express her vision through film in any direction this industry takes us. Only by understanding our past can we embrace our greatest future..” Gayle Nachlis, Senior Director of Education, Women In Film Los Angeles
“This book shows how women’s voices were heard and helped create the golden age of silent cinema, how those voices were almost eradicated by the male-dominated film industry, and perhaps points the way to an all-inclusive future for global cinema..” Paul Duncan, Film Historian
“Inspirational and informative, Silent Women will challenge many people’s ideas about the beginnings of film history. This fascinating book roams widely across the era and the diverse achievements and voices of women in the film industry. These are the stories of pioneers, trailblazers and collaborators – hugely enjoyable to read and vitally important to publish.” Pamela Hutchinson, Silent London
“A timely and urgently needed collection of essays by a definitive group of scholars on the subject, Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema utilizes the time-honored feminist concept of the silence and voicelessness at the heart of female oppression as its central motivation. The essays in this collection demonstrate how the film industry kept women from certain opportunities in the early years, but also provided them a particular agency to make their marks outside more traditional boundaries. A must-read!” Lisa Stein Haven, author of Syd Chaplin: A Biography (2010) and editor of Charlie Chaplin A Comedian Sees the World (2014)
“This book confirms what an exciting time it is for women’s cinema history. Every chapter opens tantalising new windows into the fascinating but forgotten or overlooked lives and careers of women working in the early film industry. Every page begs the question – how on earth did these amazing women vanish from history in the first place? I defy anyone interested in cinema history not to find this valuable compendium a must-read. It’s also a call to arms for more research into women’s contribution and an affirmation of just how rewarding the detective work can be.” Laraine Porter, Senior Lecturer in Film, De Montfort University and Co-Artistic Director of British Silent Film Festival
“In a climate in which the equality that exists within film has become an increasingly visible focus of debate, Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema offers a timely reminder of the historical contribution women have made to the medium. An authoritative and illuminating work, it also lends a pervasive voice to the argument that discrimination and not talent is the barrier to so few women occupying the most prominent roles within the industry.” Jason Wood, Artistic Director of Film at HOME, Author and Visiting Professor at MMU
“Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema is an inspiring and refreshing set of well written essays on a subject often forgotten, discussing the fabulous variety of women in film over the years. A must for any fan of cinema/film, or anyone that has an interest in women’s history..” Hayley Foster da Silva, The F-Word
“A long overdue compendium of insightful essays highlighting the oft-forgotten women and the vital roles they played in both the birth of cinema and its evolution. I was amazed to discover just how crucially they were involved from not just in front of the camera but in producing, directing, editing and much, much more. An essential read.” Neil McGlone. The Criterion Collection
“Silent Women honors the women in cinema who actively paved the way for future women in this industry, and brought attention to the issue of gender bias in media, a problem we are still fighting today.” Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
Review | Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema, Melody Bridges & Cheryl Robson (Eds.) | Book of the Week – BookBlast® Diary
Contents and Contributors
Foreword by Bryony Dixon, Curator of Silent Film, BFI National Archive
Introduction by Melody Bridges and Cheryl Robson
1. Girl from God’s Country: The History of Women in Film and Other War Stories by Karen Day
2. Early African-American Female FIlmmakers by Aimee Dixon Anthony
3. The Silent Producer: Women Filmmakers Who Creatively Controlled the Silent Era of Cinema by Pieter Aquilia
4. Women Were Writing: Beyond Melodrama and Hot House Romances by Patricia Di Risio
5. Doing it all: Women’s On- and Off-screen Contributions to European Silent Film by Julie K. Allen
6. Female Legends of the Silver Screen by Melody Bridges
7. Directors from the Dawn of Hollywood by Francesca Stephens
8. Interview with director DOROTHY ARZNER by Kevin Brownlow
9. Women film editors from silent to sound by Tania Field
10. Who was the first female cinematographer in the world? by Ellen Cheshire
11. When the women shoots: Ladies Behind the Silent Horror Film Camera by K. Charlie Oughton
12. Critics, Reformers and Educators: Film Culture as a Feminine Sphere by Shelley Stamp
13. U.S. Women Directors: The Road Ahead by Maria Giese
What is perhaps most compelling about Silent Women is its documentation of the sheer graft and willpower behind these pioneering women’s work. Favouring historicity over critical theory, it does that most noble task of telling the stories that need to be told..