Years ago, while working in media industry, I became curious about jobs like casting and script supervision that were carried out primarily by women and seemed to be tacitly understood as "women's work." Where had they come from? Why were they still understood this way? And what relationship did these fields have to fields like directing and cinematography, where women continue to be vastly underrepresented? I didn't plan to write a history of women's production labor, but when I searched the library for books on the subject, I couldn't find any. So here we are. My book tells the story of women's work--both the concept that shaped women's participation in production and the lived experience of thousands of women who, though their collective labor in feminized sectors, helped build the Hollywood studio system.
There’s no such thing as The Truth, especially not in a place like film history, which exists in the mind of the historian. But some things are true for me as a woman, a media scholar, and a practitioner still working in the industry I research. Through this book, I use history to reveal one such truth, not yet universally acknowledged in Hollywood: that women’s contributions to film history have been vast, important, and ongoing from inception to present, even when their names didn’t appear above the title—or in the credits at all. Simply put: female workers, so often segregated and devalued under the studio system, should not suffer the same fate in film history by being considered only for what they could not do as casualties of unjust gender politics. Examining the types of work women could and did do reveals their agency–both in their own careers and in their industry’s history—and helps frame an understanding of contemporary media labor. The stakes—pay, credit, workplace identity, and so forth—are too high to leave the past in the past. And anyway, for women, the past is always present—a reality reflected in every chapter of the book.
I'm excited to share this work with you. I'll use this blog to write about my project and some of the women in the book, to share some of the great stories I wasn't able to include in its pages, and to post updates about events and press related to the publication. So watch this space and in the meantime, pre-order the book! Join the mailing list! Catch up with me on Twitter and Facebook!
Barbara Cole, Script Supervisor, Lawrence of Arabia (1962)