With an introduction written and read by Toni Morrison, "American Masters: The Women's List" is an engaging, beautifully shot oral history of 50 years of women's equality, told through 15 candid tableaus by the women who lived them. These women are feminism's starting lineup and its pinch hitters; those who became household names and those who quietly blazed a trail.
Produced as part of PBS' "American Masters" series, "The Women's List" joins prior "List" documentaries shot by filmmaker and photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, whose style -- more cinematic portraiture than documentary -- lends a conversational, intimate tone to themes that may otherwise feel abstract.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recalls a comedic scene involving Middle East peace talks and her infant grandchild. Margaret Cho shows off her tattoos. Rather than rattle off resumes, the women share anecdotes and pivotal moments that reveal their own personal histories as much as the cultural moments that defined them. Until, of course, they redefined them.
Betsy Johnson remembers when "you could take LSD, but you couldn't wear a pantsuit" in the 1960s. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi describes her passage from "the home to the House -- the House of Representatives" in 1993. Gloria Allred, a lawyer whose fearlessness and persistence has helped shift society's perception on sexual assault, recalls having an abortion that nearly killed her before it was legal.
Among those featured are Laurie Anderson, Alicia Keys, Shonda Rhimes, Sara Blakely, Margaret Cho, Edie Falco, Aimee Mullins, Nancy Pelosi, Rosie Perez, Wendy Williams and Nia Wordlaw.
All defied mandates for, in the words of Alicia Keys, "what women aren't supposed to do." "If I was breaking a rule, it's because I thought the rule didn't make any sense," Shonda Rhimes adds. Nia Wordlaw didn't see any black women flying planes, so she became a pilot.
Marie Claire editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider hosted a screening of "The Women's List" earlier this week with Greenfield-Sanders and "American Masters" producer Michael Kantor at the Hearst Tower in New York City. Guests viewed a gallery featuring 50 portraits of female trailblazers also shot by Greenfield-Sanders.
Among the guests were several inspiring women featured in the film and portrait series including Gloria Allred, Aimee Mullins, Janet Mock, Suze Orman, Beverly Johnson and Nia Wordlaw.
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