With legends like Sofia Coppola and Greta Gerwig, it’s easy to imagine women at the forefront of film, to recall scenes that advocate for feminism in movies we love. But it wasn’t until 1661 that women were allowed to perform on the English stage. As women continue to make strides that inspire little girls to bring their stories to the big screen, our Women’s History Month Book Series aims to spotlight two amazing pioneers that have sprinkled a bit of feminism in movies: the iconic Audrey Hepburn and the mult-faceted Rita Moreno.
Audrey Hepburn: Iconic Roles that Defined an Era
If Eliza Doolittle, Sabrina, and Holly Golightly ring a bell, then you’re a certified movie maven. Played by Audrey Hepburn, these iconic characters demonstrated modern feminism in movies, oftentimes metaphors for transforming and deconstructing oppressive ideals for women. Born in 1929, Hepburn was not only the first woman to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA Award, but she also went on to become one of the most recognized humanitarians. She became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1989, traveling the world to raise awareness until her death. Recognized as one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived, today she is remembered more for her inner beauty than her outer beauty.
Rita Moreno: From Puerto Rico to Broadway
Born December 1931, Rita Moreno is a Puerto-Rican born actress, singer, and dancer who has a career spanning decades. She is one of the very few who accomplished the rare feat of obtaining an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. Since her performance as Anita in the 1961 West Side Story, Rita Moreno has inspired countless Latinas and women of color to pursue the arts and entertainment, especially after becoming the first Latina actor to win an Oscar. Her advocacy for education, immigration, racial and gender equality, and her homeland of Puerto Rico led her to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and continue to inspire others with her work on screen.
If you want to dive deeper into Audrey Hepburn’s iconic performances, learn more about feminism in movies, or explore the gift of cinema, look no further than Alicia Malone’s Backwards and in Heels, Female Gaze, and Girls on Film.
Q+A with Author Alicia Malone
MANGO: Who do you think are some of the greatest leaders and champions of feminism in movies, and pop culture?
ALICIA: One of the women in the film industry who inspired my desire to speak up for gender equality is Geena Davis. She has been a strong advocate for the positive effects of inclusion, particularly in children’s entertainment, with her motto of “If She Can See It, She Can Be It.” That is also the motto for the Geena Davis Institute, who helped to provide much needed data and research around the inclusion of gender, race and ability in front and behind the cameras in Hollywood. Having inarguable statistics has fueled a lot of needed change in the industry, and her data from years ago showing that only 4% of Hollywood studio movies were directed by women was the catalyst for myself to start my own exploration into this area of research. Not to mention… her performances in “Thelma and Louise” and “A League of Their Own!” She is worthy of celebration.
Curious for more? Click below to learn more about female leaders and meet the authors behind our Women’s History Month Book Series