Let me begin, as women do, with an apology. Until recently, I didn’t know your name. I didn’t know you were the first female director ever. I didn’t know you invented the close up, shooting on location, and saying “be natural” to actors. I didn’t know you were the first working mom director or one of the first women to run her own studio. I didn’t know that for a brief time on this earth, when you and Georges Méliès were the only two people making narrative films (historians argue over who finished first), that the gender split among directors was - for the first and last time in history - 50/50. In 1896.
But now I know. I know Léon Gaumont, your former boss, literally edited you out of the history books when he published the history of the first film studio, even after promising he’d pencil you in. I know you died believing your legacy had been lost.
I also know you made, among your 750+ films, one of the first great gender bending comedies. In Les Résultats du féminisme (The Consequences of Feminism) men ironed, sewed, and fended off rapey advances while women drank in bars and got in fist fights. While dumdums in the Youtube comments section are still mistaking the message of the film as feminism-will-make-men-gay (if only!) the rest of us get it. Under the cover of laughter and over the heads of idiots, you were able to literally put men in women’s shoes and comment on how limiting and perilous it was to be a woman in an inequitable world. In 1906.
Alice, do you want to know the real consequences of feminism? 120 years after you made your first film, thousands of men and women are fighting right now to make sure more female directors make it into the history books. But don’t worry, we’ll put you first.