American Masters Spotlights 26 Unsung Women Who Changed History with Unladylike2020

Bessie Coleman

Beginning this Women’s History Month, American Masters illuminates the inspiring stories of little-known American heroines from the early years of feminism and the women who now follow in their footsteps with Unladylike2020, an innovative multimedia series launching in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Narrated by Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife; ER; Billions) and Lorraine Toussaint (Selma; Orange is the New Black; The Glorias), American Masters – Unladylike2020 spotlights 26 diverse changemakers, in 26 documentary shorts premiering Wednesdays, beginning today through August 26, Women’s Equality Day, on the American Masters YouTube channel. In addition, an hour-long American Masters – Unladylike2020 special will premiere as part of PBS’ summer-long celebration of female trailblazers.

Only a century ago, women in America did not have the right to vote, and had only recently won the right to own property or get divorced. They faced limited career and educational choices, it was illegal for married women to work in some places, and women could even be arrested for wearing pants in public. Women who worked outside of the home were usually single, widowed, divorced, poor, or women of color who had to contend not only with sexism, but also severe racial discrimination. Despite that, intrepid women managed to break into new professions, step into leadership roles, and fight for suffrage and an end to discrimination – challenging expected behavior for “a lady.” Presenting history in a bold new way, American Masters — Unladylike2020, produced and directed by Charlotte Mangin, brings the incredible stories of these pioneering women to life through rare archival footage and interviews with descendants, historians and accomplished modern women who reflect upon their influence. Original artwork and animation created by visual artist Amelie Chabannes adds visual texture, infusing black and white images with captivating color and action. The focus on modern-day trailblazers also enriches the content with dynamic juxtapositions of past and present.

Some of the women featured include Bessie Coleman, the first African American to earn an international pilot’s license; Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American physician who also founded a hospital on the Omaha Reservation; Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress; Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim across the English Channel; Sissieretta Jones, the first African American to sing opera on the main stage at Carnegie Hall; and Lois Weber, the first woman to direct a feature-length film, among many others. To learn more about all the women featured in the series, visit

U.S. history curriculum materials for grades 6-12, produced by WNET Kids’ Media and Education, will be available via PBS LearningMedia beginning in March. Unladylike Productions, LLC will also launch a nationwide community engagement and screening initiative in partnership with public television stations and community organizations.

SOURCE: Black PR Wire

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