The profusion of events crowded into annual Women’s History Month celebrations can be exhausting. I’ve spent my professional career advocating for the inclusion of women and gender in historical study, but I’m conflicted about themed history months as the best way to educate the public about this neglected past. Even more daunting, the desire to celebrate women’s history too often results in a lack of critical analysis about the missteps and failures of well-intentioned activists and their allies.
Tonight’s Women’s History Month roll-out event at WHYY, Philadelphia’s PBS affiliate, previewed parts of a new documentary that skillfully balances celebration and criticism. The slick 3-hour film MAKERS: Women Who Make America is described on the PBS website as “the remarkable story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history, as women have asserted their rights to a full and fair share of political power, economic opportunity, and personal autonomy.” Narrated by Meryl Streep, the opening sequences predictably use the usual suspects and historical media images to tell the story of second wave feminism following World War II. Most important, the documentary includes new voices from the next generations of women examining the failures of the movement and the need for a continuing struggle to protect civil rights and gain equal opportunity for every citizen regardless of gender and class.
MAKERS is scheduled to air Tuesday, February 26, 8pm on PBS.
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