March is National Women’s History Month, so why not curl up with some films from the POV archives that celebrate amazing, courageous women from around the country?
The women showcased in these three POV films — an African-American Congresswoman running for president; a Christian teenager from Lubbock, Texas; and an Asian-American architect — are very different from each other in age, race, background, and almost everything else. But what they have in common is the determination to stand up for their vision, and to share that vision with all those around them.
CHISHOLM ’72 — Unbought & Unbossed
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress. In 1972, she became the first black woman to run for president. She championed the causes of the poor, the young, minorities, gays, women, and other marginalized Americans. Despite strong, and sometimes bigoted opposition, Shirley Chisholm struck a populist progressive chord with many Americans, and carried over 151 delegates to the 1972 Democratic Convention, where she spoke from the main podium.
In 2008, when either Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton will make history as the first African American or first woman Democratic candidate for the President of the United States, let us remember Shirley Chisholm, who said, “I ran because somebody had to do it first. I ran because most people thought the country was not ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate. Someday — it was time in 1972 to make that someday come.”
The Education of Shelby Knox
Shelby Knox was a feisty 15-year-old sophomore in Lubbock, Texas who had pledged abstinence until marriage. But she was troubled to learn that Lubbock where high schools teach abstinence as the only safe sex has some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the country. The film follows Shelby, a self-described “good Southern Baptist girl” as she becomes an unlikely advocate for comprehensive sex education and campaigns for more comprehensive, fact-based sex education in Lubbock’s public schools. Throughout the rest of her high school career, Shelby became an activist committed to working with gay teens, came to consider herself a liberal Democrat, and continued to advocate for comprehensive sex education despite opposition from the school board and from Lubbock’s politicians.
Shelby Knox shows us that it’s never to early for a young woman to stand up for what she believes in. Activists come from all different backgrounds, and are of all ages. Read more about how Shelby has continued her work as an activist long years after the film was finished in this post from January on the POV Blog.
Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision
Maya Lin was a 21-year-old student when her design was chosen for the Washington D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1981. Her design, a starkly simple slash of polished black granite inscribed with the 57,661 names of those who died in Vietnam, was one of the most bitterly disputed public monuments in American history. It was called “dishonorable,” “a scar,” and “a black hole,” and political commentators and Congressmen were fierce in their criticisms of the design. Maya Lin, however, withstood the personal and artistic attacks with clarity and grace, and prevailed with her original design. Filmmaker Freida Lee Mock, who spent five years filming the artist for this documentary, said, “I was struck by how a person could stand up under such tremendous pressure at a very young age.”
Courage comes in all forms, and Maya Lin’s conviction and focus is an extraordinary example of how one woman’s art and vision overcame critics to create a monument which brought a profound catharsis for an entire nation, and allowed Americans to grieve, contemplate the consequences of war, and to heal.