March is Women’s History Month, and to appreciate the significance of this annual occasion, one need look no further than New Day Films own trailblazing founders. This past November, New Day Films turned 50 and founders Julia Reichert, Liane Brandon, Amalie Rothschild and Jim Klein shared their insights on the founding of the co-op during the milestone celebration. The leadership and ingenuity it took to found a woman-led organization in 1971 embodies the accomplishments that should be celebrated during Women’s History month and International Women’s Day on March 8.
New Day Co-founder Liane Brandon directed Betty Tells Her Story, about the situation for women at the time. As she shared:
“When I was growing up, girls had to take cooking, typing, and home economics in school. There were no sports for girls, no shop, and our career choices if you went to college were secretary, nurse, teacher, maybe flight attendant. If you were poor, it was factory work or maybe waitressing.“At the time there were no laws against sexual harassment, gender discrimination, there was no Title IX and abortion was illegal. We couldn’t get credit cards without a male co-signer and were told we shouldn’t plan for a career because we’d be taking a job away from a man.”
New Day Films Co-founder Julia Reichert, whose film Growing Up Female was the first feature documentary of the women's movement of the 1960’s. As she shared, “It was a time of social change, and we all had our critiques of racism, imperialism and began having a critique of sexism and of patriarchy, things we’re still talking about now. The women's movement didn’t just take on the office, it also took on the kitchen and the bedroom. One of the basic ideas to make a society that is equal for women is to look at non-hierarchical structures. The concepts of New Day came out of the Women’s movement.”
Jim Klein, Co-Director of Growing Up Female and New Day Co-founder, was a progressive example of how men could not only work collaboratively with women as equals, but serve as key allies in uplifting the women’s movement. Jim shared, “The women's movement was a prairie fire in this country, it was just spreading like crazy. The film (Growing Up Female) had a lot of impact and we realized we had to get other feminist films.”
Julia and Jim would eventually meet Amalie Rothschild, Director of It Happens To Us, and together with Liane, they founded New Day Films. Amalie shared, “a reason New Day has been successful is we have been a majority female organization without the competition that is so common is male dominated organizations. While we have embraced everybody, it’s obvious that the men in New Day share that collaborative spirit and are willing to work with women on an equal level.”
Julia concluded the 50th anniversary gathering with these powerful and inspirational parting words, “We can give you days and nights of stories of how our films…have made an actual difference because we brought people together to see it, discuss it and to learn from it. That’s something that the New Day model brought the world of filmmakers…that films can have to make a difference in the world.”
While New Day Films has expanded far beyond a collection of films about the women’s movement over the past five decades, the experiences and stories of women continue to be central and vibrant elements in our collection.
- The Double Burden: Three Generations of Working Mothers by Marlene Booth portrays the lives of three families-one Mexican-American, one Polish-American, and one African-American--each with three generations of women who worked outside the home while also raising families.
- In Disruption by Paco de Onis and Pamela Yates follows Latin American activist economists sets out to change their region, partnering with women marginalized by poverty to challenge accepted notions on how to eradicate inequality.
- Woman Rebel by Kiran Deol follows one woman (codename 'Silu') on her incredible journey--from the jungles of Nepal to the halls of Parliament.
- Quilts in Women’s Lives by Pat Ferrero presents the lives, art, work and philosophy of seven traditional quilt makers.
- Taking Root by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy.
- All of Us by Emily Abt tells the story of a young doctor in the South Bronx embarking on a project to find out why African-American women were becoming infected with HIV at alarming rates.
Though New Day Films has grown and evolved over the past 50 years, the co-op will always be a source for films which exemplify the values and accomplishments which should be celebrated during Women’s History Month. We hope you’ll bring films from the Women’s Studies collection into your classroom to expand the hopes and dreams of the next generation of young women who will change the world.