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Women's Studies

Extraordinary Women


By Kathy Kleiman, Jon Palfreman and Kate McMahon

In the United States, women are vastly underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields, holding under 25% of STEM jobs and a disproportionately low share of STEM undergraduate degrees. Great Unsung Women of Computing is a series of three remarkable documentary films that show how women revolutionized the computing and Internet technology we use today, inspiring female students to believe that programming careers lie within their grasp.

The Computers features the extraordinary story of the ENIAC Programmers, six young women who programmed the world's first modern, programmable computer, ENIAC, as part of a secret WWII project. They programmed ENIAC without programming language (for none existed), and harnessed its power to perform advanced military calculations at lighting speeds. However, when the ENIAC was unveiled in 1946, the Programmers were never introduced and they became invisible. This stunning documentary features rare footage and never-before-seen interviews with the ENIAC Programmers. 70 years later, this is their story.

The Coders tells the story of two extraordinary women, Sarah Allen and Pavni Diwanji whose technologies revolutionized the Internet: Sarah co-invented Flash, the first multimedia platform supporting video, graphics, games and animation for the internet, while Pavni invented the Java servlet to allow web applications to respond quickly to requests from users everywhere.

In The Future Makers, Andrea Colaco, a young MIT PhD, shares her dream of a world in which we interact with our smart devices using natural hand gestures, not static keyboards or touchpads. She invented 3D "gestural recognition technology" and co-founded 3dim to develop and market it. In 2013, 3dim won MIT's $100K Entrepreneurship Prize and launched Andrea towards her dream of innovation and changing the world.

DVD (Color) / 2016 / () / 48 minutes

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This program presents a biographical profile of Hillary Rodham Clinton prior to her becoming the United States' 67th Secretary of State. As we see, most American First Ladies have been content to stay in the background, but Hillary Rodham Clinton proved to be as ambitious as her husband, former US President Bill Clinton. Known for her deep commitment to social issues, the outspoken, self-proclaimed feminist has never been afraid to make enemies. Her belief in a world-class education for all children, as well as a better, fairer health system, has made her a target for more conservative members of Congress who have gone as far as accusing her of socialism. We see she receives more criticism for her decision to stand by her husband during the Monica Lewinsky scandal; however, Hillary Clinton faced her detractors with her head held high and eventually won the position of Senator of New York in 2001.

DVD / 2014 / (Junior High, Senior High, College, Adult) / 30 minutes

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The adventures of that certain boy wizard, Harry Potter, were enough to propel J.K. Rowling into millionaire status, but by 2007 the story that began it all came to an end. Rowling said goodbye to the series with the launch of the seventh book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The idea for the series was born on a long train journey, and by the time the author disembarked she couldn't wait to start writing. Seventeen years, seven books and six movies later, the final installment was split into two movies due to the large content of the novel, and although the author says she'll be sad to let go of Harry, she admits it's time to move on.

DVD / 2014 / (Junior High, Senior High, College, Adult) / 30 minutes

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Sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for being outspoken about her country's education system. The Pakistani government spends seven times more on its military than on education and banned girls from attending school. Pakistan's literacy rate is among the lowest in the world, with the number of school aged children who don't attend school is second highest globally.

Malala survived and is now the youngest person to ever be awarded the Nobel peace Prize for her activism for female education. This is the story of Malala's fight for a right to education and freedom.

DVD / 2014 / (Junior High, Senior High, College) / 60 minutes

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Director: Freida Mock

An entire country watched transfixed as a poised, beautiful African-American woman in a blue dress sat before a Senate committee of 14 white men and with a clear, unwavering voice recounted the repeated acts of sexual harassment she had endured while working with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. That October day in 1991 Anita Hill, a bookish law professor from Oklahoma, was thrust onto the world stage and instantly became a celebrated, hated, venerated, and divisive figure. She has become an American icon, empowering millions of women and men around the world to stand up for equality and justice.

Against a backdrop of sex, politics, and race, ANITA reveals the intimate story of a woman who spoke truth to power. Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, the film is both a celebration of Anita Hill's legacy and a rare glimpse into her private life with friends and family, many of whom were by her side that fateful day 22 years ago. Anita Hill courageously speaks openly and intimately for the first time about her experiences that led her to testify before the Senate and the obstacles she faced in simply telling the truth. Anita Hill's graphic testimony was a turning point for gender equality in the U.S. and ignited a political firestorm about sexual misconduct and power in the workplace that resonates still today.

DVD / 2013 / () / 77 minutes

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Director: Rodrigo H. Vila

In 1960s, prior to her fame and international acclaim, Mercedes Sosa defied expectations by drafting, together with four other young musicians, the "Manifesto del Nuevo Cancionero" ("The New Songbook Manifesto"). How did this manifesto make an impact on youth culture in Argentina and future generations of Latin Americans? How much did the "Nuevo Cancionero" influence the development of the "Nueva Trova Cubana," the folk-music revolution driven by its message of social and political change? How did Sosa's ideology affect the politics of both emerging and developed countries? Apart from the millions of records she sold, the thousands of international concerts, her countless fans and detractors, Mercedes Sosa left behind an indelible legacy, an ideal that has not become a reality yet but which keeps pushing forward. Mercedes Sosa, The Voice of Latin America is an intimate and informative journey into the world of a ground-breaking artist and activist.

DVD (English, Spanish, Portuguese and French with English Subtitles) / 2013 / () / 93 minutes

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By Marcia Rock and Patricia Lee Stotter

Women make up 15 percent of today's military. That number is expected to double in 10 years. SERVICE highlights the resourcefulness of seven amazing women who represent the first wave of mothers, daughters and sisters returning home from the frontless wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Portraying the courage of women veterans as they transition from active duty to their civilian lives, this powerful film describes the horrific traumas they have faced, the inadequate care they often receive on return, and the large and small accomplishments they work mightily to achieve.

These are the stories we hear about from men returning from war, but rarely from women veterans. Through compelling portraits, we watch these women wrestle with prostheses, homelessness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma. The documentary takes the audience on a journey from the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq to rural Tennessee and urban New York City, from coping with amputations, to flashbacks, triggers and depression to ways to support other vets. An eye-opening look at the specific challenges facing women veterans with a special focus on the disabled, SERVICE can be used for courses in military studies, women's studies, peace and conflict courses and veteran support groups.

DVD (Color) / 2012 / () / 55 minutes

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By Yunah Hong

Anna May Wong knew she wanted to be a movie star from the time she was a young girl-and by 17 she became one. A third generation Chinese American, she went on to make dozens of films in Hollywood and Europe . She was one of the few actors to successfully transition from silent to sound cinema, co-starring with Marlene Dietrich, Anthony Quinn and Douglas Fairbanks along the way. She was glamorous, talented and cosmopolitan-yet she spent most of her career typecast either as a painted doll or a scheming dragon lady. For years, older generations of Chinese Americans frowned upon the types of roles she played, today a younger generation of Asian Americans sees her as a pioneering artist, who succeeded in a hostile environment that hasn't altogether changed. Yunah Hong's engrossing documentary is an entertaining and imaginative survey of Wong's career, exploring the impact Wong had on images of Asian American women in Hollywood, both then and now. Excerpts from Wong's films, archival photographs and interviews enhance this richly detailed picture of a woman and her times.

DVD (Color) / 2011 / () / 56 minutes

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By M.T. Silvia

A complex film, both historically compelling and deeply personal, ATOMIC MOM is a story of war and reconciliation. M.T. Silvia's mother, Pauline, was a biologist for the Navy in the 1950s - a time when women scientists were extremely rare - who was sent to Nevada to work on the atom bomb. Racked with guilt over her participation in such a deadly device, including animal testing, she has become a peace activist and whistleblower, revealing some of the US military's closely guarded dark secrets. M.T. meets with Emiko, a Hiroshima survivor trying to resolve her own history - when the bomb dropped, her 12 year old sister was killed. Emiko recounts her own memories of the atom bomb and speaks about her commitment to education and disarmament.

ATOMIC MOM weaves an intimate portrait of complex mother-daughter relationships within an important moment of American history. It also provides a global perspective on our collective Atomic legacy. Through revealing interviews with Japanese survivors, doctors and historians, the film reveals the truth regarding post-war censorship in Japan and America regarding images and information related to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It inspires dialogue about human rights, personal responsibility and the possibility - and hope - of peace.

DVD (English, Japanese, Color, Black and White, With English Subtitles) / 2011 / () / 80 minutes

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With the Iranian revolution of 1979 came the harsh imposition of Sharia law and the repression, persecution, state-sanctioned discrimination and murder of women. Over the last 30 years, the women's fight for freedom and equality led to an inner awakening. In 2003, Shirin Ebadi became the first Muslim woman and the first Iranian citizen to receive the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize acknowledging her courageous efforts for democracy and human rights in Iran.

Her crowning achievement inspired Iranian women to begin what has become the most powerful movement for reform in Iran's history, the One Million Signature campaign. The bravery of these women is remarkable as they risk their lives to gain freedoms under one of the world's most repressive regimes. Lion Women chronicles the untold story of the Iranian Women's Movement and its fight for democracy and human rights.

The fight culminated in Teheran's bloody streets in 2009 when the Lion Women were joined by hundreds of thousands protesting the controversial presidential election. For the first time, Iranian women reveal to the world their heartbreaking stories in this powerful documentary directed by filmmaker Gry Winther, who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Lion Women in Teheran amid the brutality and violence.

DVD / 2011 / (Senior High, College) / 52 minutes

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By Michele Midori Fillion

Before World War II, war reporting was considered to be absolutely "no job for a woman." But when the United States entered the war, American women reporters did not want to miss covering the biggest story of the century so they fought for and won access. But there was a catch: women reporters would be banned from the frontlines, prevented from covering front page stories about generals and battlefield maneuvers, and assigned "woman's angle" stories about nurses and female military personnel. Several women reporters refused to abide by these journalistic conventions and military restrictions and, instead, brought home a new kind of war story: one that was more intimate yet more revealing. They reached beyond the battlefield and deep into human lives to tell a new story of war.

Narrated by Emmy Award winner Julianna Margulies, this historical documentary focuses on the lives and work of wire service reporter Ruth Cowan, magazine reporter Martha Gellhorn, and war photographer Dickey Chapelle. Their stories are brought to life with rarely seen archival footage and stills with actors reading the written words of the three main characters and with interviews of contemporary female war reporters.

DVD (Color, Black and White) / 2011 / () / 61 minutes

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By Ermena Vinluan

Tea & Justice chronicles the experiences of three women who joined the New York Police Department during the 1980s-the first Asian women to become members of a force that was largely white and predominantly male. In this award-winning documentary, Officer Trish Ormsby and Detectives Agnes Chan and Christine Leung share their fascinating stories about careers and personal lives, as well as satisfactions and risks on the job, the stereotypes they defied, and how they persevered.

Intrigued by the image of Asian women in a non-traditional profession, filmmaker Ermena Vinluan explores her own mixed feelings about cops while honoring the challenges Ormsby, Chan and Leung embraced, and the far-reaching changes they helped bring about. Interviews with ordinary New Yorkers, leading advocates of law enforcement reform, and anti-police abuse activists consider proposed changes in police culture and explain how women's preventive policing style, based on communication, contrasts with more reactive, physically forceful methods used by men. Humorous cartoons, lively graphics depicting cultural icons of strong Asian women, and original music enhance this nuanced study of race, gender, and power.

DVD (Color) / 2010 / () / 55 minutes

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By Helen De Michiel

Essential viewing for students, educators, counselors, policy makers and parents, THE GENDER CHIP PROJECT is being hailed as an important resource for addressing the disparity of representation of women in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Although women comprise the majority of undergraduates in America, only 20 percent are earning degrees in engineering and computer science. Opportunities for workers in STEM fields are expected to increase by 5.6 million by 2008, yet only 11 percent of the science and engineering workforce is comprised of women. With statistics like these-and recent controversies such as the firestorm created when a prominent university president suggested women lack innate abilities in math and science-it's clear that the road to success in the high-stakes STEM professions is not an easy one for young women.

THE GENDER CHIP PROJECT illustrates this challenge as it follows five extraordinary women majoring in the sciences, engineering and math at Ohio State University. Meeting regularly throughout their four years of school, they create a community to share their experiences and struggles as women stepping into traditionally male domains, and find support in dialog with their female professors. The film shows how these extraordinary students are finding their own way to navigate and succeed in these male-dominated areas of study.

DVD (Color) / 2005 / () / 54 minutes

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By Caroline Marte

This wry and delightful found-footage film reveals a little-known chapter in labor history: the story of female telephone operators' central place in the development of global communications. With an eye for the quirky and humorous, Caroline Martel assembles a dazzling array of clips - more than one hundred remarkable, rarely seen industrial, advertising and scientific management films produced in North America between 1903 and 1989 by Bell and Western Electric - and transforms them into a dreamlike montage documentary.

As the first agents of globalization, this invisible army of women offered a way for companies to feminize and glamorize what was a highly stressful, underpaid and difficult job. Not merely "Voices with a Smile", telephone operators were shooting stars in a universe of infinite progress, test pilots for new management systems, and the face of shrewd public relations campaigns. As the work of operators has been eclipsed by the advent of automated systems, this artful piece of labor history also offers an insightful comment on women's work, industrialization and communications technology. Refreshing and hilarious, The Phantom of the Operator provides a wry yet ethereal portrait of human society in the technocratic age.

DVD (French, Color, Black & White) / 2004 / () / 66 minutes

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Emily Dickinson 1830 - 1886

By any standards a remarkable poet, the fact that she lived in an age when poets were supposed to be men and any ideas contrary to the norm were outrages in the eyes of society, Emily Dickinson's work is astonishing. The film traces her life in 19th Century New England and shows how her talent has gained her a place as one of the best loved of American poets. The DVD covers her life and background and ends with an overview of her work.

DVD / / () / 35 minutes

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Jane Austen 1775 - 1817

Like most women of her time, Jane Austen lived out her life on home ground. Her adventurous brothers meant however that she was very much in touch with her age. Coupling this with her own remarkable personality she produced some of the finest novels in English literature. The DVD covers her life and background and ends with an overview of her work.

DVD / / () / 35 minutes

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The three Bronte sisters Charlotte (b.1816), Emily (b.1818) and Anne (b.1810) were all born in the village of Thornton in Yorkshire. They spent most of their lives not far away at Haworth where their father was vicar. They were largely educated at home. All three achieved their goal of becoming successful novelists. The programme follows their lives and their development as writers and ends with an overview of their work.

DVD / / () / 35 minutes

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Agatha Christie (1890-1976)
English crime writer

Agatha Christie was the Queen of Crime Fiction. In a career that spanned more than half a century and two world wars, Agatha wrote 80 novels and short stories, creating such unforgettable characters as Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. Revered as the 'Master of Suspense', Agatha Christie perfected the art of the 'whodunit' - and her mysteries were a masterpiece in misdirection. One of her many plays, 'The Mousetrap', is the longest running play in theatrical history.

It was Agatha's experiences in World War One that first set in motion a career in detective fiction - inspired by medicines, and especially poisons, when volunteering with the British Red Cross dispensing unit. Agatha went on to travel extensively across the Middle East, finding inspiration for many of her most famous books - 'Death on the Nile', and 'Murder on the Orient Express'.

But her dramas and mysteries were not just contained within her books. There were rumours of a nervous breakdown, an unexplained disappearance and an acrimonious divorce, made all the more painful by the death of her beloved mother.

But Agatha Christie, a shy, clever and complex woman, set this all aside to become the best selling author of all time, alongside Shakespeare - selling over 2 billion books worldwide, translated into over 45 languages. And yet, despite her fame, the real Agatha Christie remains as mysterious as any of the characters in her novels.

Intensely private all her life, Agatha did leave hidden clues - and if you know where to look, these clues reveal a very different woman to that of her accepted public persona.

DVD / 2015 / () / 50 minutes

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Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)
America's greatest female flyer

Amelia Earhart was an aviation pioneer and female icon. Born to a privileged family in Kansas in the United States, Amelia grew up a tomboy. It was no surprise that when her father, Edwin took her to an air show, Amelia was hooked. She took numerous part time jobs, and borrowed money from her mother's inheritance, in order to pay for flying lessons and buy her first plane. But Charles Lindberg's record-breaking flight across the Atlantic awakened in Amelia, a daring need for adventure on a massive scale.

She caught the attention of high profile publisher of adventure books, George Palmer Putnam who gave Amelia the chance to equal Lindbergh's Atlantic feat. The successful crossing in 1928 brought Amelia instant fame. But what Putnam's publicity downplayed, was the fact that Amelia was only a passenger! Determined to make her name on merit, Amelia set a host of other flying records across the US, from city to city and coast to coast. She also helped establish the first women's pilot association, The Ninety-Nines. But harbouring doubts about the validity of her position as America's greatest female flyer, in 1932 Amelia made the trip across the Atlantic again - this time, alone.

She was eventually rescued by Princess Grace of Monaco and a triumphant return to the Paris stage in 1975 would bring an unexpected finale to the incredible life of a cultural icon.

DVD / 2015 / () / 50 minutes

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Coco Chanel (1883-1971)
Pioneering French fashion designer

She was an illegitimate child, born into a poorhouse and abandoned in an orphanage, but Coco Chanel rose from unimaginable poverty to create the most iconic fashion brand of the 20th century, The House of Chanel.

With steely ambition, she took advantage of wealthy lovers, rose to the top in a male-dominated world, and created a style of clothing that changed the face of women's fashion forever. She encouraged women to dress comfortably, with simplicity and for themselves, rather than their men. Starting with a modest hat shop in Paris, an Empire grew and the House of Chanel came to epitomise luxury and style.

Yet behind the success, lay a hidden story of wartime collaboration with the Nazis and a lifetime of disastrous affairs with unsuitable lovers, including the Duke of Westminster, Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and Nazi spy Hans Gunther von Dincklage. Always a mistress, never a wife, Coco's longing for love nearly cost her everything.

Yet at the age of 88, when she died at her Ritz apartment in Paris, Coco Chanel was officially still working. She triumphed over the adversity of her lowly birth and two world wars, and clung onto her fashion empire which, to this day, continues to be successful and respected the world over.

DVD / 2015 / () / 50 minutes

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Dr Ruth Westheimer (born 1928)
Holocaust survivor and Zionist sniper turned

Dr Ruth Westheimer is the world most famous sex therapist a woman, but that is almost the least remarkable thing about here. For she has led many lives.

Born to a German Jewish family in 1928, Ruth's happy childhood was shattered when Adolf Hitler came to power and Jews were reduced to subhuman status. Her parents then made the ultimate sacrifice, sending their daughter to safety on the Kindertransport to Switzerland. They would die in the Holocaust.

The fate of her parents and her pride in her Jewish roots led the orphaned Ruth to become an ardent Zionist, travelling to Palestine after the end of World War Two, where she was trained as a sniper by the Jewish underground. She was even wounded by shrapnel.

But then two marriages led her to the other side of the globe - first to France, and then to the United States - and some of the world's finest universities. In New York she became a single, working mother, before meeting her soul mate, Manfred Westheimer, by whom she had another child.

Ruth went from academic psychologist to sex therapist as a result of a project she worked for highlighting the benefits of birth control. A chance encounter led her to being invited onto a radio show and so 'Dr Ruth' was born. Dr Ruth Westheimer has become a household name as the self-styled grandma Freud who talks frankly about all things sex.

But it's her Jewish roots and experiences that continue to shape her life. This is the story of one woman's extraordinary capacity for re-invention and survival.

DVD / 2015 / () / 50 minutes

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Indira Gandhi (1917-1984)
Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms, assassinated during her fourth

Indira Gandhi was always destined for greatness. As the first female leader of the world's largest democracy, she inherited a country plagued by poverty, famine and social injustice. Yet Indira triumphed over her critics, transformed India into a confident independent democracy, and rose to dominate India's political stage for nearly 20 years.

To the poor, she was 'Mother India'. To others, Durgar, the goddess of war. Yet Indira was a woman of extreme contradictions.

She was the democrat who became a dictator. She was the wife and mother who placed politics and power before her family. And eventually, she paid the price for her very public flaws.

Loved and loathed in equal measure, Indira's life was an epic saga of feuds, flaws and betrayal - a life in service of her country, abruptly ended by those she'd trusted to protect her.

Yet the confidence she gave India on the world stage has endured - India has become one of the most prosperous developing countries in the world. Even if the opinion of Indira Gandhi's personal legacy remains divided.

DVD / 2015 / () / 50 minutes

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Madame Chiang Kai-Shek (1897-2003)
First Lady of the Republic of China

In a remarkable life that touched three centuries, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek rose to become one of the most powerful women in the world. She positioned herself at the forefront of Chinese politics and held extraordinary influence in world affairs for a woman of her time. She was, for 5 decades, a source of invaluable support for her China's ineffective Nationalist leader, her husband, General Chiang Kai-Shek.

With charm, diplomacy and an American education on her side, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek secured huge international support for a war-torn poverty-stricken China. When Japan invaded and the Communists advanced, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek successfully appealed to America for millions of dollars of financial and military aid.

Yet her ambition and hunger for power was nearly her downfall. An affair with a man who could have been the American President almost destroyed her marriage and her reputation. In the end though, she triumphed over every adversity, and continued to fight both for Chinese democracy and her country's place on the world stage.

In one of the most turbulent times in China's history, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek had spoken for millions of her people at home and across the world. She was the greatest leader China never had.

DVD / 2015 / () / 50 minutes

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Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
Italian doctor and educational radica

Maria Montessori was a woman of vision. In a remarkable life spanning eight decades, Maria Montessori, challenged convention to pioneer a radical new system of education; one which focused on the child as an independent learner and which spread to all corners of the world, affecting the schooling of millions.

Her visionary method of education has helped produce some of the most creative and successful people on the planet including the founders of Amazon.com, Wikipedia and Google. But Montessori's revolution might never have occurred had she not had the tenacity to confront prejudice head on.

As a young woman in nineteenth century Italy she defied social convention to study medicine and to become one of Europe's first female doctors. She campaigned tirelessly for the rights of women, children and the disadvantaged. She risked public condemnation by teaching sexual health to women and defied Italian society to become an unmarried mother.

By the 1930's her system of education had spread across from the USA to Japan. But she was forced to flee her homeland when she dared confront Mussolini. Her works were later burned by Hitler and she became a nomad, travelling the world and spreading a message of peace through education.

She leaves a legacy of thousands of Montessori schools across the world and having revolutionised the way in which the world views its children.

DVD / 2015 / () / 50 minutes

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Martha Gellhorn (1908-1998)
American novelist, war correspondent and journalist

Martha Gellhorn became a war correspondent almost by accident when her lover, Ernest Hemingway, urged her to file a report from Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. She wrote about the innocent victims of the war: the civilians who lived in daily fear of being killed by bombs. It was the beginning of a remarkable career spanning some sixty years.

Until Martha entered the field, war-reporting was dominated by male journalists but, through her fearlessness and dedication, she earned a place at the top. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she was motivated to write - not about tactics and statistics - but about the devastating effects of war on the lives of civilians. It was a theme she carried from Spain throughout World War Two, to Vietnam and, much later, to America's wars in Guatemala and Panama.

But Martha's success came at great cost to her personal life. Her relationships were disastrous and short-lived. Her first marriage, to the writer Ernest Hemingway, ended acrimoniously when it became clear that she could not put her husband before her job. She had several affairs with married men and a painful and difficult relationship with her adopted son.

Although American, Martha fell out with her government and spent her whole life looking for somewhere else to settle. She had homes in Mexico, Africa and Britain, ending her life in an apartment in London. She carried on reporting well into her eighties when, half-blind, she travelled alone to Brazil to report on the plight of street-children who were being murdered by death-squads.

Martha Gellhorn was committed to reporting the truth and she worked hard for her reputation as one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century.

DVD / 2015 / () / 50 minutes

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