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Suffragettes in the Silent Cinema
A Film by Kay Sloan
2003, 35 minutes, Color/BW, DVD
Order No. W09964
In the days before movies could talk, silent films spoke clearly of sexual politics, and in Suffragettes in the Silent Cinema, historian and writer Kay Sloan has assembled rare and wonderful footage that opens a historic window onto how women’s suffrage was represented in early American cinema.

Taking advantage of the powerful new medium, early filmmakers on both sides of the contentious issue of suffrage used film to create powerful propaganda and images about women. Suffragettes in the Silent Cinema contains clips from many films from the era, including: A Lively Affair (1912); A Busy Day (1914), which stars a young Charlie Chaplin in drag portraying a suffragist; and the pro-suffragist film, What 80 Million Women Want (1913), which includes an eloquent speech from president of the Women’s Political Union, Harriet Stanton Blatch.

Silent films may have passed into history, and their representations of feminists abandoning babies or stealing bicycles to attend suffragette meetings may now seem outrageous, but the struggle for gender equality and the issues surrounding representations of women in the media remain as fascinating, engaging, and relevant as ever.


  • Miami Int'l Film Festival
  • Women in Resistance Film Festival, Paris
  • Women's Film Festival, Barcelona
  • Pordenone Silent Film Festival, Venice
  • Filmor Int'l Women's Film Festival, Istanbul

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    “Very useful in illuminating the social and media context in which the women’s suffrage movement was active... [and] helps viewers consider connections to how women are treated by the media today.”
    Eleanor Whitney
    Academic Programs Coord., Brooklyn Museum

    “This film won me over. Has archival value for identifying and compiling the surviving footage, and good commentary. I see a place for this in a women’s studies or film unit on representation.”
    Joyce Follet
    Sophia Smith’s Women’s History Collection, Smith College

    “Not only does [it] breathe new life into an art form that barely even exists, but it encapsulates a very definitive time period in which women were working hard to liberate themselves.”
    Michelle Groene
    City Beat

    “Wonderfully captures the passions and cruel prejudices that fueled the debates surrounding the struggle of American women and their male allies to win the vote, while also supplying the historical highlights that led to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.”
    Louise W. Knight
    Author, “Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy

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    Suffragettes in the Silent Cinema is included in the following Special Collections.
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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

Deep discounts are available when you purchase multiple films. More details.

© Women Make Movies, 2005
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Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitiates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. contact us