Nearly two years ago I had the pleasure of being invited to join a panel at the then upcoming SCMS (Society of Cinema and Media Studies) conference set for Seattle. As you know that was canceled due to Covid with the hopes of reconvening in Colorado in 2021. That became a virtual conference but our group decided to reapply our panel and we four were able to ‘meet’ on Zoom on Sunday and present: Writing Between the Lines: Feminist Strategies for Historical Absences, Cliché, and the Unreliable Narrator.
Here you can watch a clip from my part of the presentation,
“When Men Forget Women: The Many Ways Male Screenwriters Fail to Mention their Female Colleagues in Oral Histories”
They don’t tell the story of people like Marion E. Wong all right. Without having the material, these stories disappear. She’s just really coming into the textbooks now. She was from San Francisco. She only made one film which was “The Curse of Kwon Guan.” She tried to get it distributed and she was turned down by almost every distributor in New York. She traveled from San Francisco to New York with her parents and they could not get the movie sold. So they went bankrupt on it and they continued running their restaurant in San Francisco.
Jeannie Louise Toussaint Welcome was a famous African-American screenwriter in the early silent days. She worked out of Chicago. She comes from a famous family to the extent that her brother was a Harlem Renaissance photographer and her parents worked for President Ulysses S. Grant. We have advertisements of the work that she did and the films that she made but none had been preserved. So we do not have things to study right? So the archives can’t tell us the whole story because these women do not have their words in those archives. We have advertisements for what they did. That’s how we know that they worked. The same is true with Tressie Souders who worked out of Kansas, We have listings from movies that were made and distributed in black-owned theaters and those kinds of things and Eloyce King Patrick Gist. We know of course more about Zora Neil Hurston because she was doing documentary work through the WPA. So and because of her novels she’s a name that we recognize but these other people were all working in this time period and forgotten because they don’t exist in our archives.
Watch this entire presentation