UNLADYLIKE is an innovative multimedia series of short, animated documentary films featuring unsung American women from the early years of feminism, and the contemporary women who now follow in their footsteps.
Set to launch in 2020 in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the series will present 31 shorts for the 31 days of Women’s History Month, distributed through a high-profile digital platform, social media feeds, educational outreach campaigns in middle schools, high schools and universities, and civic engagement events across the United States.
BRINGING HIDDEN HISTORY TO LIFE
Only a century ago, women in America did not have full right to vote, had only recently won the right to own property or get divorced, faced limited career choices, were often expected to provide all of the childcare, and could even be arrested for wearing pants in public. Women who did work outside the home were usually single, widowed, divorced, poor, and/or women of color who had to contend not only with sexism but also severe racial discrimination.
But conditions were ripe for newfound freedoms. It was the Progressive Era, and the decades from the 1890s through the 1920s were a time of rapid urbanization, industrialization, technological advancement, and reform that resulted in significant changes to the country’s social, political, cultural, and economic institutions. Women broke into new professions, stepped into leadership roles, and fought for suffrage and an end to race discrimination – challenging expected behavior for a ‘lady.’ 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.”
A handful of now-largely forgotten trailblazers such as Bryant followed their passions, defied the rules and prejudices of their time, set and broke world records, and paved the way for future generations of women to do many ‘unladylike’ things. These women became our country’s first female doctors, lawyers, journalists, entrepreneurs, explorers, scientists, artists and more. It is time to bring this overlooked history back to life, and give feminism a reboot.
Traditional media has focused abundantly on the suffragists, but what about the first American woman to: Found a hospital? Earn an international pilot’s license? Fight for the desegregation of schools? Open a film studio? Sing at Carnegie Hall? Study genetics? Become a self-made millionaire? How did these accomplishments happen? What made them possible? Presenting history in a bold new way, UNLADYLIKE will bring these women's stories back to life through breathtaking original artwork and animation, rare historical archive, and interviews with historians, descendants, and accomplished women of today who are influenced by the achievements of these pioneers. Our series will ensure audiences gain a nuanced, inclusive understanding of U.S. history and women’s contributions to many professional fields, and demonstrate how this history still resonates and influences American lives today.
The women of UNLADYLIKE hail from all walks of life and background. Ensuring racial, cultural, economic, and geographic diversity and inclusiveness is one of the greatest strengths of this series. We will emphasize the social and racial prejudices these women faced, the emotional and physical roadblocks they overcame, their successes and failures, the men who supported them on their journeys, and what we can learn today from their persistence and the ways they battled oppression.
Much progress has been made in women’s rights over the last 100 years and yet sexism remains one of the biggest barriers to women living sustainable and healthy lives. As a nation and a planet, we still have a long way to go. The vast majority of leaders in the world remain men – out of 193 heads of state and government, only 19 today are women. Only 6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women earn less than men for the same jobs. Women still do the lion’s share of housework and childcare, and often face more complex decisions when it comes to balancing their professional success and personal lives.
Meanwhile, the single most important requirement for economic development and good governance in the world today is widely recognized: empowering women.
UNLADYLIKE will do precisely that, giving us 31 examples of women standing up and making change. While these trailblazers lived more than a century ago, their stories of overcoming unimaginable societal forces and conditions will model extraordinary persistence, courage, and leadership for the girls and women, and boys and men, of today.
THE CREATIVE TEAM
UNLADYLIKE is created, produced, and directed by award-winning filmmaker Charlotte Mangin. Artwork and animation is by renowned visual artist Amelie Chabannes. Award-winning filmmaker Kathy Leichter is our development and impact producer. Public media veteran Sandra Rattley is our executive producer.
Our academic advisory board is composed of esteemed scholars from a wide range of women’s history specializations: Michael Bronski, Professor of the Practice in Activism and Media in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University; Yong Chen, Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine; Hasia Diner, Professor of American Jewish History at New York University; Mary Jo Tippeconnic Fox, Professor of American Indian Studies and affiliate faculty in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona; Cynthia E. Orozco, Professor of History and Humanities at Eastern New Mexico University; Stephanie J. Shaw, Professor of History at Ohio State University; Karen Manners Smith, Professor Emerita of History at Emporia State University; and Nancy C. Unger, Professor and Chair of History at Santa Clara University.
We are currently building partnerships with distribution platforms and like-minded women's and girls' organizations for maximum impact on a national and global scale.
Our producing partner is The Futuro Media Group, a nonprofit journalism organization that creates multimedia content for and about the new American mainstream in the service of empowering people to navigate the complexities of an increasingly diverse and connected world.