Silent Women: Pioneers of CinemaSilent Women: Pioneers of Cinema by Cheryl Robson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I was given this book by NetGalley.com for my honest review.

Are you old enough to remember the cigarette ad featuring a lady smoking with the words above/below (in magazines) or narrated (on television) “You’ve come a long way, baby.” As I was reading this book I kept picturing myself yelling at that ad, “YEAH! BACKWARDS!”

Before and during the world wars, women helped create the silent pictures (among other pioneering works around the world. The wars had all the men busy so the women had to step in and do those male jobs. And they did great jobs. When the men came back home they closed that all down and ratcheted back to the little woman, barefoot and pregnant, in the kitchen where men believed women belonged. And if you aren’t screaming by the end of this book, you haven’t been paying attention.

This is a non-fiction book with footnotes and references galore. If one were reading a traditional paper-paged book, this would be quite handy to follow the strains of facts. But I found that squeezed at the ends of every chapter, they block the flow of the read. Especially, when one reads using Text-to-Speech. It is part of the reason it took me so long to read this gem of a book. I had to stop and fast forward past all the notes to get to the next chapter. I can forgive the few typos as this was an uncorrected proof.

The meat of the book was great! The author, Cheryl Robson, takes us into the lives and careers of many of the silent screen actresses, camera carriers, clip-room slicers, screen writers, and directors at the beginning of the exciting motion picture days. Back then, women were on equal footing. By the last chapter, you are reminded of these last few years of white-male-dominated Academy Awards.

If you follow my reviews, you know that in the last couple of years I have dedicated myself to reading mostly books written by women featuring strong female characters. This has been an awakening challenge for me. This challenge begat the challenge to watch similar types of TV and movies. I learned of the http://bechdeltest.com/ and started seeing how white-male the world of film is. Thank goodness for the ABC Thursday evening goddess: Shonda Rhimes. She gives me hope.

If you need to see how miraculous an evening of Shonda Rhimes is, take these facts directly from this book (Silent Women): “Women make up 51% of our populations. Minority men 18% so why are women only directing 16% of TV…while minority men are directing 18%?” “Minority women make up 19% of the US population yet direct just 2% of TV shows.” This isn’t just a problem of film. But our young girls aren’t seeing themselves in books or movies. I didn’t. It took me until I was in my 60s to see what had been missing. I only read guys adventures and sci-fis. There weren’t female books beyond the cashmere-sweatered Nancy Drew and other good-little-girls-in-their-places books. Is it any wonder I still can’t speak up for myself? Is it any wonder the populations of girls and ladies in this world still can’t show the force they own? I have said it before: We hold up more than half the sky worldwide. We need to show the world how that force works.

Thank you for letting me read this very important book. It should be required reading for everyone.

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