“Deeds, Not Words”—The Activism of the Suffragettes in Early Cinema

"Suffragettes in Early Cinema" Madeleine Bernstorff and Andrei Siclodi, Leokino Innsbruck

The thirteen short films selected by Madeleine BERNSTORFF were shown at Leokino with piano accompaniment by Gerhard Gruber. Bernstorff began the screening with an introduction to the topic and a word about the film selection.

Films screened:
• Grève des Nourrices (en.: Nurses’ Strike), F 1907, Production: Pathé, 190 m, 10 min., 16 B/sec, 35 mm
Like the maids and cooks, the nurses strike. A throng of nurses storm the employment office. They discuss and fall onto the road. Babies wear signs in three languages. Street battles with prams in breathtaking choreography.
• Le torchon brûle (en.: The Burnt Floorcloth), F 1911, Director: Romeo Bosetti, Actress: Sarah Duhamel, 101 m, 5 min., 18 B/s, 35 mm.
A married couple argues.
• La Conquête de Pôle (en.: The Conquest of the Pole) F 1912, Director: George Méliès, clip from DVD.
A recently rediscovered suffragette scene: suffragettes want to travel to the North Pole, too!
• Bobby bei den Frauenrechtlerinnen (en.: Bobby and the Feminists), D 1911, Director: Oskar Messter, 112 m, 5:30 min., 18 B/s, 35 mm
Bobby reads about the suffragettes in the newspaper. Dressed and made up as a woman, as he goes to a suffragettes meeting and holds a wild speech, hits the desk, crashing headlong, losing his wig— the women’s pursue Bobby …
• Milling the Militants: A Comic Absurdity, GB 1918, Production: Clarendon, 147 m, 7 min., 18 B/s, 35 mm
An irritated husband is once again left alone with the children by his wife, who wears a “Votes for Women” apron. Exhausted, he falls asleep and dreams—as Prime Minister—of devising draconian punishments against women’s rights advocates.
• Scenes in the Record Demonstration of Suffragettes, GB 1910, Production: Pathé, 52 m, 3:16 min., 35 mm
“Taxation without Representation is Tyranny!“
• Scenes from Suffragette Demonstration in Newcastle, GB 1909, 11 m, 0:35 min., 16 B/s 35 mm
“Who are the People?”
• The Suffragette Derby 4 June 1913, F 1913, 110 m, 5:20 min., 18 B/s, 35 mm
Radicalized suffragette Emily Wilding Davison throws herself in front of the king’s horse at the Epsom Derby.
• Miss Davison’s Funeral, F 1913, Production: Gaumont, 45 m, 2 min., 18 B/s, 35 mm
The harrowing funeral procession for Emily Wilding Davison, who died of her injuries.
• Suffragettes? Yarmouth Pier and Pavillion Burnt Down, F 1914, Production: Éclair, 13 m, 0:37 min., 18 B/s, 35 mm
The movement radicalized in 1913.
• Scottish Women’s Hospital of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, F 1917, 133 m, 6:30 min., 18 B/s, 35 mm
The work of suffragettes as nurses, drivers and surgeons for the cause in 1917, the third year of the war.
• Robinette Nihilista, IT 1913, Production: Arturo Ambrosio, 124 m, 6 min., 16 B/s, 35 mm
Robinette is a writer working on a new script. She goes to her literary agent. A telegram comes in her absence, which is read by a domestic servant: “Let the Grand Duke die by bomb and not by dagger!”, prompting him to call the police …
• The Nervous Kitchen Maid, F 1908, 74 m, 4 min., 16 B/s, 35 mm
The anarchist qualities of early cinema: the demolition fervour of a kitchen girl, also very much a reference to class antagonisms.

The event was supported by the Austrian Film Archive, Cineteca del Comune di Bologna, National Film Archives/BFI London, Nederlands Filmmuseum Amsterdam, and the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation, Wiesbaden.

Madeleine BERNSTORFF (*1956) is a Berlin-based film curator, author, super-8 filmmaker and lecturer. Her works deal, among other things, with the representation of suffragettes in film. Madeleine Bernstorff is a co-founder of Kino Sputnik in Berlin Wedding.



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