As part of Women’s History Month, American Masters has been illuminating the inspiring stories of little-known American heroines from the early years of feminism and the women who now follow in their footsteps with Unladylike2020, an innovative multimedia series produced in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
Narrated by Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife, ER, Billions) and Lorraine Toussaint (Selma, Orange Is the New Black, The Glorias), American Masters – Unladylike2020 spotlights 26 diverse change-makers in 26 documentary shorts, premiering through August 26 — Women’s Equality Day — on the American Masters YouTube channel. In addition, an hour-long American Masters – Unladylike2020 special will premiere as part of PBS’ summer-long celebration of female trailblazers.
Only a century ago, women in the United States did not have the right to vote, and had only recently won the right to own property or get divorced. They faced limited career and educational choices, it was illegal for married women to work in some places, and women could even be arrested for wearing pants in public. Women who worked outside of the home were usually single, widowed, divorced, poor or women of color who had to contend not only with sexism, but also severe racial discrimination. Despite that, intrepid women managed to break into new professions, step into leadership roles, and fight for suffrage and an end to discrimination – challenging expected behavior for “a lady.”
Presenting history in a bold new way, American Masters — Unladylike2020, produced and directed by Charlotte Mangin, brings the incredible stories of these pioneering women to life through rare archival footage and interviews with descendants, historians and accomplished modern women who reflect upon their influence. Original artwork and animation created by visual artist Amelie Chabannes adds visual texture, infusing black and white images with captivating color and action. The focus on modern-day trailblazers also enriches the content with dynamic juxtapositions of past and present.
Some of the women featured include Bessie Coleman, the first African American to earn an international pilot’s license; Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American physician, who also founded a hospital on the Omaha Reservation; Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress; Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim across the English Channel; Sissieretta Jones, the first African American to sing opera on the main stage at Carnegie Hall; and Lois Weber, the first woman to direct a feature-length film, among many others.
To learn more about all the women featured in the series, visit pbs.org/unladylike2020.
U.S. history curriculum materials for grades 6-12, produced by WNET Kids’ Media and Education, will be available via PBS LearningMedia beginning in March. Unladylike Productions, LLC will also launch a nationwide community engagement and screening initiative in partnership with public television stations and community organizations.
American Masters – Unladylike2020 is a production of Unladylike Productions, LLC in association with THIRTEEN’s American Masters. Executive producers for Unladylike2020 are Charlotte Mangin and Sandra Rattley. Executive producer for American Masters is Michael Kantor.
Major funding for American Masters — Unladylike2020 is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. Support is also provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Wyncote Foundation, California Humanities, HumanitiesDC, Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, Made in New York: Women Film, TV, & Theater Fund, the Harnisch Foundation, Humanities Nebraska, Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Humanities Montana, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with New York State Council on the Arts, South Dakota Humanities, Virginia Humanities, the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Utah Humanities, Ohio Humanities, South Carolina Humanities, Humanities New York, JetBlue Foundation, Awesome Without Borders, and IFP. Any views expressed in this series do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or other supporters.
Major support for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, Judith and Burton Resnick, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Seton J. Melvin, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Vital Projects Fund, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, and The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation.