Women’s History Month 2023
Women’s history month is the time to celebrate the amazing achievements women have made over the years. We will be looking at women who have made an impact on the creative industries and made them what they are today. This year’s theme is ‘Celebrating Women Who Tell our Stories’, recognising women who have been active in forms of media and storytelling (National Women’s History Alliance).You may know some and not others, but we want to celebrate all of them. Share this with women who inspire you!
Mathilde C. Weil: 1872-1942
Mathilde was born and raised in Germany. In 1870, she moved to America after the passing of her husband. She started her career in America as a translator, as she was fluent in German, English, Spanish and French. Mathilde then went on and worked as a magazine writer, but discovered that she could earn more from advertising. She started a female-only agency, with her colleagues, Mary Compton and Meta Volkman. Mathilde ran this successful company, until 1942 when she passed away. She is remembered as America’s first “ad-woman” and is an icon within the marketing industry to this day.
Mary Adams: 1898-1984
Mary was born in Britain in 1898. She dedicated her time in education becoming a biologist at Cambridge University. In 1928 Mary had given a series of radio talks called ‘Problems on Heredity’, which sparked interest in the BBC as a potential speaker for its talk programme. In 1930 at the age of 32, she applied for a full-time position at the BBC as an Adult Education Officer. This, however, was an organisational role. Her manager Charles Siepmann recognised Mary as a creative innovator and reassigned her to make science talk programmes instead. In 1936, she had a baby and applied for another position at the BBC as The Director of Talks. Despite being a woman, in her 30’s, with a new-born baby, she was accepted for the position along with Sir Richard Maconachie in 1937. She had created several shows during this time until the BBC stopped during the second world war. Mary returned as a Senior Producer in 1946. She was promoted several times during her career, all the way to Assistant to the Controller of TV. Mary retired in 1958 at the age of 60 and released a staff journal highlighting all her achievements. Mary Adams is remembered as the first ever female tv producer at the BBC.
Mary Blair 1911-1978
Mary was born in Oklahoma and moved to Los Angeles after winning a scholarship in art later in life. She started her career as an animator in 1933 at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayor studio, then moved on to work at The Walt Disney Studios in 1940, working on movies such as Fantasia, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and many others. Mary did some freelance work after having a baby. Illustrating children’s books, including ‘I Can Fly’. Mary returned to Walt Disney to work on the design of the ‘it’s a small world’ attraction in 1964. She continued to work on several other attractions around the theme parks in California and Florida, until she passed away in 1978. Her work is still viewed all over the world generation after generation.
“She brought modern art to Walt in a way that no one else did.” – Frank Thomas (Walt Disney Animator)
Jean Rosenthal 1912-1969
Jean was born in New York City in 1912. During her time at school, she was interested in experimental dance work and invested a lot of her time working on the technical aspects of production. She studied at Yale University of Drama and received the Henrietta Lord Memorial Award in 1932. In 1935 she started her first job as a production supervisor. During her career, she worked on many Broadway shows including, West Side Story, Hamlet, Cabaret, and many others. Even with it being an extremely male-dominated profession, Jean Rosenthal founded her own company, the Theatre Production Service in 1940. She continued to work on lighting design in dance and opera performances, including the New York Ballet. Jean was a dedicated creative and continued to work until she passed away in 1969.
Willa Kim 1917-2016
Willa Kim was born in California in 1917. She studied as a painter and illustrator at Chouinard Art Institute (now known as California Institue of the Arts). Willa first started her career as an assistant for Barbara Karinska, designing costumes for the Ginger Rogers 1944 film, Lady in the Dark. She then moved to New York to work for Broadway productions, designing costumes for the leading dancers and choreographers at American Ballet Theatre. As well as opera performances, figure skaters, and film/TV productions. Willa has designed costumes for over 150 ballet performances and has won both Tony and Emmy Awards for her work. She died at the age of 99 in 2016.
Bea Feitler 1938-1982
Bea Feitler was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1938. She studied art and illustration in New York. Bea worked on album covers, magazine covers, book jackets and posters. In 1961 she became an art assistant and then went on to become one of the youngest and first female co-art directors at Harper’s Bazaar alongside Ruth Ansel. In 1970, she became the art director of the Rolling Stone, creating the famous front cover with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. She later launched a liberal feminist magazine in 1971 with activists Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman. Bea is an icon for magazine designs throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Caroline Robinson Jones 1942-2001
Caroline was born in 1942 in Michigan. She earned degrees in English and Science at the University of Michigan. After graduating, she was hired in 1963 to be a secretary at J. Walter Thompson. Caroline was promoted all the way to senior copywriter and became the first black female creative director at a major advertising agency. From 1968 to 1986 she worked at several advertising companies as a creative director, vice president and co-founder. Later in 1986 Caroline founded her own agency called Caroline Jones, inc. She worked with companies such as, McDonald’s, American Express, Toys ”R” Us, and many others. Caroline died in 2001 and is still known as one of the most successful women in advertising.