Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema

Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema

Extent: 272 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9566329-9-9

67 Grove Avenue
TEL: 020 3261 0000

Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema

Edited by Melody Bridges & Cheryl Robson

  • Contributors include Kevin Brownlow, Bryony Dixon and Shelley Stamp.
  • Approaches include specific production roles such as directing, cinematography and editing; international cinema/filmmakers and genre contributions.
  • Essential reading for students of film studies, media, culture and gender/women’s studies.
  • With many b/w photos will appeal to all lovers of the cinema and the early days of the movies


About the book

Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema explores the incredible contribution of women at the dawn of cinema when, surprisingly, more women were employed across the board in the film industry than they are now. It also looks at how women helped to shape the content, style of acting and development of the movie business in their roles as actors, writers, editors, cinematographers, directors and producers. In addition, we describe how women engaged with and influenced the development of cinema in their roles as audience, critics, fans, reviewers, journalists and the arbiters of morality in films. And finally, we ask when the current discrimination and male domination of the industry will give way to allow more women access to the top jobs.

Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema is not just a book about women working in film during the silent film era. The term ‘silent’ also refers to the silencing and eradication of the tremendous contribution that women have made to the development of the motion picture industry. Why have women such as Alice Guy-Blaché, the creator of narrative cinema, been written out of film history? Why have so many women working behind the scenes in film been rendered ‘invisible’ and ‘silent’ for so long?



Foreword by Bryony Dixon, Curator of Silent Film, BFI National Archive

Introduction by Melody Bridges and Cheryl Robson

  1. Girl From God’s Country: The History of Women in Film and Other War Stories by Karen Day
  2. Early African-American Female Filmmakers by Aimee Dixon Anthony
  3. The Silent Producer: Women Filmmakers Who Creatively Controlled the Silent Era of Cinema by Pieter Aquilia
  4. Women Were Writing: Beyond Melodrama and Hot House Romances by Patricia Di Risio
  5. Doing It All: Women’s On and Off-Screen Contributions To European Silent Film by Julie K Allen
  6. Female Legends of the Silver Screen by Melody Bridges
  7. Women Directors from the Dawn of Hollywood by Francesca Stephens
  8. Interview with Director Dorothy Arzner by Kevin Brownlow
  9. Women Film Editors from Silent to Sound by Tania Field
  10. Who Was The First Female Cinematographer in the World? by Ellen Cheshire
  11. When the Woman Shoots: Ladies Behind the Silent Horror Film Camera by K. Charlie Oughton
  12. Critics, Reformers, and Educators: Film Culture as a Feminine Sphere by Shelley Stamp
  13. US Women Directors: The Road Ahead by Maria Giese



“. . . a lively collection, opening up an increasingly vibrant field, which promises to raise a diversity of questions for viewers, makers and teachers of film about women’s role world-wide in the emergence of cinema.” Christine Gledhill

“This book is inspirational reading for any woman who dreams to express her vision through film in any direction this industry takes us. Only by understanding our past can we embrace our greatest future.” Gayle Nachlis, Senior Director of Education, Women In Film Los Angeles

“This book shows how women’s voices were heard and helped create the golden age of silent  cinema, how those voices were almost eradicated by the male-dominated film industry, and perhaps points the way to an all-inclusive future for global cinema." Paul Duncan, Film Historian

“Inspirational and informative, Silent Women will challenge many people's ideas about the beginnings of film history. This fascinating book roams widely across the era and the diverse achievements and voices of women in the film industry. These are the stories of pioneers, trailblazers and collaborators - hugely enjoyable to read and vitally important to publish.” Pamela Hutchinson, Silent London

"A timely and urgently needed collection of essays by a definitive group of scholars on the subject, Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema utilizes the time-honored feminist concept of the silence and voicelessness at the heart of female oppression as its central motivation.  The essays in this collection demonstrate how the film industry kept women from certain opportunities in the early years, but also provided them a particular agency to make their marks outside more traditional boundaries. A must-read!”  Lisa Stein Haven, author of Syd Chaplin: A Biography (2010) and editor of Charlie Chaplin’s A Comedian Sees the World (2014)

‘This book confirms what an exciting time it is for women’s cinema history. Every chapter opens tantalising new windows into the fascinating but forgotten or overlooked lives and careers of women working in the early film industry.  Every page begs the question - how on earth did these amazing women vanish from history in the first place?  I defy anyone interested in cinema history not to find this valuable compendium a must-read. It’s also a ‘call to arms’ for more research into women’s contribution and an affirmation of just how rewarding the detective work can be’ Laraine Porter, Senior Lecturer in Film, De Montfort University and Co-Artistic Director of British Silent Film Festival

"In a climate in which the equality that exists within film has become an increasingly visible focus of debate, Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema offers a timely reminder of the historical contribution women have made to the medium. An authoritative and illuminating work, it also lends a pervasive voice to the argument that discrimination and not talent is the barrier to so few women occupying the most prominent roles within the industry."  Jason Wood, Artistic Director of Film at HOME, Author and Visiting Professor at MMU

"Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema' is an inspiring and refreshing set of well written essays on a subject often forgotten, discussing the fabulous variety of women in film over the years. A must for any fan of cinema/film, or anyone that has an interest in women's history" Hayley Foster da Silva, The F Word

“A long overdue compendium of insightful essays highlighting the oft-forgotten women and the vital roles they played in both the birth of cinema and it's evolution. I was amazed to discover just how crucially they were involved from not just in front of the camera but in producing, directing, editing and much, much more. An essential read.” Neil McGlone. The Criterion Collection

"Silent Women honors the women in cinema who actively paved the way for future women in this industry, and brought attention to the issue of gender bias in media, a problem we are still fighting today." Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media


About the editors

Melody Bridges studied English and Drama at Cambridge University and has written, acted and directed for theatre before working in TV where she developed, wrote, produced and directed two television series. In addition to contributing to Celluloid Ceiling, she writes a weekly page for a newspaper, and is artistic director of Worthing’s WOW Festival. In 2014, she was a Finalist as Influential Woman of the Year at the NatWest Venus Awards. She has recently given a TEDx talk about inspiring change.

Cheryl Robson is a producer/director of several short independent films, most recently Rock n Roll Island which was nominated for Best Short Film for Raindance, London 2015. She worked at the BBC for several years and then taught filmmaking at the University of Westminster, before setting up a theatre company. She also created a publishing company where she has published over 150 international writers. As a writer, she has won the Croydon Warehouse International Playwriting Competition and as an editor, she worked with Gabrielle Kelly to publish Celluloid Ceiling: women film directors breaking through, the first global overview of women film directors. She also received a Gourmand Special Jury Prize for Peace with author Robin Soans, for The Arab-Israeli Cookbook.


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