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Director’s Statement | Women’s History “Continues to Resonate and Shape American Lives Today.”

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DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT from Charlotte Mangin

UNLADYLIKE2020 is an innovative multimedia series featuring little-known American women from the turn of the 20th century, set to launch in 2020 for the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Our 26 animated documentary shorts will be released digitally on a weekly basis by PBS’s flagship biography series American Masters for the 26 weeks between March 1, the start of Women’s History Month, and August 26, 2020, a day known as Women’s Equality Day, named to commemorate the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, and also will be repackaged into a public television broadcast hour. Each 5-to-7 minute episode will profile a female trailblazer from the Progressive Era in U.S. history (1890s through 1920s) who broke barriers in then-male-dominated fields such as science, business, aviation, journalism, politics, medicine, exploration, and the arts, including the first woman to found a hospital on a Native American reservation, serve in the U.S. Congress, become a bank president, earn an international pilot’s license, explore the Arctic, sing opera at Carnegie Hall, or direct a feature-length movie. The collection of short films will excavate available historical archives to present the rich history of 26 women of very diverse professional and historical experiences, geographical, racial-ethnic, and class backgrounds, and gender identities.

For the most part, the record of these women’s accomplishments and their personal narratives, that provide contextual history for the period, are absent from public knowledge of women’s history and American history, and from the history curriculum that is generally taught. Because the women we plan to feature were behaving in ways that placed them outside the mainstream of expected behaviors for ‘ladies’ at the time, the title for the series is derived from the negative perceptions which their contemporaries typically held of them. As journalist and political activist Louise Bryant (1885-1936) proclaimed in 1919, “I do not want to be treated like a lady, but I want to be treated as a human being,” and as historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich echoed more recently, “well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Through 26 individual portraits, UNLADYLIKE2020 will explore the historical forces and social conditions that incubated the little-known accomplishments of women such as Bryant, and will examine their impact on U.S. society as a whole. UNLADYLIKE2020 is innovative in its format, presenting humanities information in a short form that will be available digitally, designed to appeal to younger audiences and to inspire their interest in history and the humanities. The series will also showcase a unique visual storytelling template, bringing these stories back to life through rare photographs and films pulled from the rich historical archive, as well as captivating original artwork and animations, narration and voice-over, and interviews with historians, scholars, descendants, and accomplished women of today who are informed by the achievements of their predecessors. The resulting series will be pioneering in its approach, vision, and impact, bringing women’s history to a broad, diverse, and intergenerational 21st century audience.

Spanning the humanities fields of U.S. history, women’s history, gender studies, and multicultural American and ethnic studies, the UNLADYLIKE2020 series will interrogate the following four humanities themes: how and why women’s engagement in public and professional life increased during the Progressive Era, how and why gender roles changed during that period, how women’s status within American society was affected by changing notions of what it meant to be an American, and how and why the Western United States became a key location for women’s rights. These themes have been chosen in close conversation with our academic advisory board of eight respected scholars of Asian American women’s history, African American women’s history, Jewish women’s history, Latina women’s history, Native American women’s history, Gay and Lesbian history, Progressive Era history, and the history of immigrant women.

Produced and directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker and public television veteran Charlotte Mangin, in partnership with the nonprofit media organization The Futuro Media Group, UNLADYLIKE2020 will ensure that audiences gain a nuanced, inclusive understanding of U.S. history and women’s contributions to various fields during the Progressive Era, and how this history continues to resonate and shape American lives today. The digital and broadcast release by American Masters will be accompanied by a humanities-rich interactive website; educational curricula made available for U.S. history instruction in middle and high schools nationwide; a vibrant social media campaign; and community engagement events across the country including screenings, audience dialogue, and panel discussions with historians and women thought-leaders; all intended to expand the public’s understanding and appreciation of the historical period, how women shaped it and were shaped by it, and what it can teach us about today.

 

Digital shorts
Anna May Wong: The first Asian American Movie Star
Clip | Anna May Wong: The first Asian American Movie Star
Bessie Coleman: First African American Aviator
Clip | Bessie Coleman: First African American Aviator
Queen Lili‘uokalani – The First and Last Queen of Hawai‘i
Clip | Queen Lili‘uokalani – The First and Last Queen of Hawai‘i
She was the American Cinema Pioneer You Haven’t Heard Of
Clip | She was the American Cinema Pioneer You Haven’t Heard Of
Zitkála-Šá: Trailblazing American Indian Composer and Writer
Clip | Zitkála-Šá: Trailblazing American Indian Composer and Writer
Ynés Mexía: Mexican-American Botanist and Adventurer
Clip | Ynés Mexía: Mexican-American Botanist and Adventurer
This Astronomer Discovered Over 300 Stars During Her Career
Clip | This Astronomer Discovered Over 300 Stars During Her Career
The First American-Born Chinese Woman Doctor
Clip | The First American-Born Chinese Woman Doctor
Susan La Flesche Picotte: The First American Indian Doctor
Clip | Susan La Flesche Picotte: The First American Indian Doctor
Sonora Webster Carver: Daredevil Performer & Advocate for the Blind
Clip | Sonora Webster Carver: Daredevil Performer & Advocate for the Blind
Sissieretta Jones was a Trailblazing Black Opera Singer
Clip | Sissieretta Jones was a Trailblazing Black Opera Singer
She was the First Woman to Swim Across the English Channel
Clip | She was the First Woman to Swim Across the English Channel
She was the first Chinese American woman to vote in the U.S.
Clip | She was the first Chinese American woman to vote in the U.S.
She was one of the most influential leaders of the American labor movement
Clip | She was one of the most influential leaders of the American labor movement
She was a Civil Rights Activist and Co-Founder of the NAACP
Clip | She was a Civil Rights Activist and Co-Founder of the NAACP
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Nikole Hannah Jones
Clip | Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Nikole Hannah Jones
Meta Warrick Fuller: Trailblazing African American Sculptor and Poet
Clip | Meta Warrick Fuller: Trailblazing African American Sculptor and Poet
Meet Charlotta Spears Bass – The First Black Woman to Run for Vice President of the U.S.
Clip | Meet Charlotta Spears Bass – The First Black Woman to Run for Vice President of the U.S.
Martha Hughes Cannon: The First Woman State Senator
Clip | Martha Hughes Cannon: The First Woman State Senator
Maggie Lena Walker: Civil Rights Activist and Entrepreneur
Clip | Maggie Lena Walker: Civil Rights Activist and Entrepreneur
Louise Arner Boyd: First Woman to Lead Arctic Expeditions
Clip | Louise Arner Boyd: First Woman to Lead Arctic Expeditions
Lillian Gilbreth: Pioneering Inventor
Clip | Lillian Gilbreth: Pioneering Inventor
Jovita Idar: Mexican American Activist and Journalist
Clip | Jovita Idar: Mexican American Activist and Journalist
Jeannette Rankin: First Woman Member of the U.S. Congress
Clip | Jeannette Rankin: First Woman Member of the U.S. Congress
Grace Abbott: Social Work Pioneer
Clip | Grace Abbott: Social Work Pioneer
Gladys Bentley: Gender-Bending Performer and Musician
Clip | Gladys Bentley: Gender-Bending Performer and Musician
Annie Smith Peck: Record-Breaking Mountaineer
Clip | Annie Smith Peck: Record-Breaking Mountaineer

- My name is Charlotte Mangin, and I'm the creator and director of 'Unladylike 2020,' which is a series of 26 documentary shorts being created for 'American Masters' on PBS.

When I realized that 2020 was the centennial of women's suffrage, I knew that that was the perfect year to bring these stories back to life.

People would be interested in the centennial, taking stock of how far we've come, but also what remains to be done.

I wanted it to be this treasure trove of stories about women from the turn of the 20th century who were often the first in their professional fields.

I brought on board the team, this very talented artist who has created this gorgeous artwork and animation to both bring color and life to the black and white archive and also create animations that can tell scenes from our women's stories for which we have no archival imagery.

(lively music) (gentle music) We want viewers to discover new role models, new stories, new forms of inspiration, and examples of women who stood up for what they believed in.

And a number of the struggles that they led a hundred plus years ago still resonate today.