The multiplicity of women’s labor—as entertainers, as activists, as mothers—built the foundation of the entertainment industry in the 1920s and 1930s and then sought reform in those same industries in the 1940s and 1950s. Placing women as central to the formation of entertainment empires and the efforts to reform them presents a more nuanced and, we would argue, accurate historical view. Despite their onscreen representations, which often objectified and devalued them, women were active subjects who built and shaped the entertainment industry. The ways in which their labor contributed need be acknowledged, studied, and theorized in order to uncover gaps in historical understanding.
Production studios are not simply the work of one or two creative geniuses who serve as founders or CEOs. Rather, they represent and require the labor of hundreds, many of them women. Labor unions and organizations similarly required the labor of many to identify areas of concern and to advocate for solutions against what would otherwise become oppressive systems.
This report is an attempt to address the centrality and importance of women’s labor in film, TV, theater, radio, and animation and to capture the multiplicity of women’s labor. It places women as active, agentive subjects in history.