[This is an abridged version of the original document. For information on how to
obtain the original version, please contact TWN.]
The Woman's Film
It was 1969. The anti-war movement was at its height. The Black Panthers were holding
their first national conference in Oakland, California. Newsreel was a growing national
organization servicing the growing and powerful left. There were now Newsreel offices
in Chicago, Boston. Detroit, Los Angeles, Buffalo, New York and San Francisco. We
were three women who had each joined San Francisco Newsreel. We had each been active
in the antiwar movement and/or other community based political organizations. Although
not experienced film producers, we were interested in the media.
By the beginning of 1970, the woman's liberation movement was emerging as a
new and dynamic voice within the left. Newsreel began getting calls for films on
women's liberation. At one national meeting, it was decided that San Francisco
would produce the needed film on woman's liberation. Our group decided that our
approach would be to invest more money than we had on previous projects and produce
a scripted in-depth film on this subject that would have a longer shelf life than
other Newsreel films. We would not merely document the activities of other movement
activists. We would present our own analysis of the issues.
We begin filming on March 7, 1970 at a rally for International Woman's Day. It was
a gorgeous day, brilliant sunshine and the rally was held in Dolores Park in the
Mission District. This film was going to be different than other Newsreel films
- no voice-overs - we would use sync cameras! At the rally, many community women
as well as feminists spoke about the need for women's participation in the growing
movements against the war, for civil rights and workers' rights.
We wanted to ask the question: "Was the woman's liberation movement relevant
to working class women?" We did our research by going into the community and
interviewing poor and working-class women about their view of themselves as women.
We used our contacts with left community organizers such as the Radical Union (RU),
the Black Panthers, the Oil and Chemical Workers and Welfare Rights organizations
to get entry into the homes of grassroots leaders, who were women. We interviewed
the women without any cameras. We used their stories as the basis for our "script."
We were so excited by the women we met. There was Florence, a white woman who organized
a welfare rights organization called "Why Not Whites," Vonda, whose husband
had been arrested when he supported the Oil and Chemical Workers strike and Mary,
the wife of a Black Panther and a full-time at-home mother. We quickly realized
that being an active proletarian leftist did not quiet the sense of also being oppressed
as women. We began to write a script based on Florence, Vonda and Mary's lives.
We wanted to show how they had gained a feminist consciousness and also blended
this consciousness with their perceived need to organize men and women against the
capitalist system of oppression.
The film we intended to make would broaden the image of the Woman's Movement
to include Third World women, working class women and poor women on public assistance.
This was radical for 1970 - when the new woman's movement was primarily a "bourgeois"
movement of educated white women (like us).
The women we had met through the production of the film had become a part of each
of us. We no longer could think of the woman's movement as faceless. The woman's
movement was now known by us to be made up of Florence and Vonda and Mary: people
with jobs, families, houses to clean, groceries to buy, as well as struggles at
work and personal dreams. The woman's movement had become personalized through our
entry into their lives and their commitments to building a better life for themselves
and their communities. The making of the film was a defining experience for each
of us and continues to affect the choices we make in our lives.
The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "These real women with their real problems were
engaging and left one with the feeling that the camera succeeded in capturing a
part of the human struggle." The Oakland Tribune wrote: "The women whose images
fill the screen are all shapes and sizes, colors and ages...They appear to have
little in common...They do not fit anyone’s image of militant supporters of Women's
Liberation...Perhaps this is what makes The Woman's Film...