Madeleine Bernstorff

Suffragettes in Movies

Militant women’s rights advocates were called “suffragettes” starting in the mid-nineteenth century, after groups seeking women’s right to vote. Madeleine BERNSTORFF was primarily interested in images of—and especially films by and about—the suffragettes.

Some of these films show a noticeable ambivalence: many appear to have been intended as anti-suffragette films, yet in early cinema’s direct way of address, there are multiple moments that point to the audience’s complicity with the wild dames. The depiction of politics in these films is particularly interesting: how the right to speak is claimed, how women leave their designated spaces (from the kitchen to the streets, onto the meeting hall), dissent (banners, newspapers, the grotesque body), disruption to the order of things (the collapse of the work of reproduction). Women in the films are often shown as misled subjects; their behavior and concerns are maligned and they are shown as needing to be brought back to the correct path through drastic punishment.

In Büchsenhausen, Madeleine Bernstorff sought a deeper understanding of the films based on researched material and sources (such as newspaper reports and caricatures) and through the suffragette’s own publications. She also reimagined the historical representations through an examination of elements such as political signs, gestures (how are masculine/feminine represented, which signs are deemed radical) and the representation of public and political space.
(Text source: Madeleine Bernstorff)

Madeleine Bernstorff discussed the main focuses of her work and approach at Julia Prager’s seminar Gender Studies at the Institute of Languages and Literatures, Department of Comparative Literature, University of Innsbruck.

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.