1. Although the television network ABC commissioned the film, the broadcast producers were dissatisfied with Leacock and Chopra’s version of the story of the media “hoopla” over the quintuplets. They never aired Happy Mother’s Day but instead produced an alternative version called Quint City. According to Leacock, the ABC version was “toned down” and Happy Mother’s Day was a “political film” (Naficy 201). In a 1982 interview with Hamid Naficy, Leacock explains his sense of what makes Happy Mother’s Day political in these terms: “If you analyze it, if you discuss that film, whole aspects of our society will be revealed by it” (200). In the interview, Leacock expresses discomfort with the word “political” though he uses it quite a few times. At one point he says, “‘Political’ is such a bad word, like ‘propaganda’” (201). [return to page 1]

2. In “Feminist Film Theory: Mildred Pierce and the Second World War,” Williams argues that readings of Curtiz’s 1945 film, especially by feminist scholars “in the context of current feminist enlightenment” tend to neglect a nuanced consideration of female spectators of the 1940s. Feminist hindsight, in other words, encourages readings of the film that prioritize gendered analysis, but for Williams, these readings fall short by emphasizing “either the repression or the reflection of woman.” Williams also glosses a familiar history of 1970s feminist film theory, which she cleaves into dueling camps: psychoanalytic and semiologically oriented feminists on one side (repression) and sociologists and historians (reflection) on the other. The stories feminist scholars tell about the historiography of feminist film theory is a matter I and others take up elsewhere (see Warren). 

3. See, for example, Kaplan’s Women & Film, where the author argues that Joyce at 34 exemplifies the dominant trend of women’s filmmaking in the 1970s, what she calls documentary in the “verité style” and opposed to “avant-garde theory” films, such as Mulvey and Wollen’s Riddles of the Sphinx (1976) (125).

4. In “Women’s Happytime Commune: New Departures in Women’s Films,” Kaplan thoughtfully considers legitimate reasons for the vérité approach. In the later publication of her book Women & Film, Kaplan noticeably omits this analysis in favor of the rising trend of what Williams’ would call the psychoanalytic semiological approach.

5. Newsreel articulated their project this way: “Films made by Newsreel are not to be seen once and forgotten. Once a print goes out, it becomes a tool to be used by others in their own work … We intend to cover demonstrations; to interview figures like LeRoi Jones and Garrison; we want to show what is at stake in a housing eviction or in consumer abuses in Harlem; we should provide information on how to deal with police or on the geography of Chicago” (Rabinowitz 87). [return to page 2]

6. Kathie Sarachild explains, “The idea was to take our own feelings and experience more seriously than any theories which did not satisfactorily clarify them, and to devise new theories which did reflect the actual experience and feelings and necessities of women” (“CR as Radical Weapon” 135).

7. In Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World, Rowbotham stresses revolutionary potential of changed consciousness, which comes about only through great effort. She writes, “All revolutionary movements create their own ways of seeing. But this is a result of great labour. People who are without names, who do not know themselves, who have no culture, experience a kind of paralysis of consciousness. The first step is to connect and learn to trust one another” (27).

8, For example, a Newsreel press release advertises screenings in February 1971 at American Zoetrope, Surf Interplayers, and the University of California, Berkeley (MOMA Archives).

9. MOMA press release draft (MOMA Archives). Sharon Smith describes the screening to telephone company employees in the Women & Film interview (31).

10. Press reviews of the film include: Joan McKinney, “The ‘Quiet Women’ Speak Out,” Oakland Tribune; Beverly Koch, “Liberated women Take Up the Arts,” San Francisco Chronicle; Jonas Mekas, “Movie Journal,” Village Voice; Molly Haskell, “Women Without Men,” Village Voice; “Femmes Fatales,” Women’s Wear Daily; Irwin Silber, “The Woman’s Film,” Guardian.   

11. Eithne Johnson theorizes what she calls “the specular scene” in Self-Health in “Loving Yourself: The Specular Scene in Sexual Self-Help Advice for Women.” [return to page 3]

12. Self-Health thus shares some of the limitations of the women’s health movement from which it emerges. Sandra Morgen’s Into Our Own Hands and Jennifer Nelson’s Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement provide excellent analyses of women’s health activism of the 1970s. Both authors detail the critiques of the self-health movement in particular, which emphasized cervical self-examination as visualized in the film. Further, both authors stress the critique levied at mostly white women health activists for de-emphasizing the way health is always imbricated with race, class, and culture. Thus, the critique of the women’s health movement echoes the critique of seventies feminism more generally.

13. Landmark examples of feminist anti-essentialist critique include: Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”; Angela Davis, “Racism, Birth Control, and Reproductive Rights”; Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House”; This Bridge Called My Back; The “Combahee River Collective Statement”; Conditions Five: The Black Woman’s Issue; and The Black Woman: An Anthology.

Works cited

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Hanisch, Carol. “The Personal is Political.” Notes from the Second Year. Eds. Shulamith Firestone and Anne Koedt. New York: Firestone and Koedt, 1970. 76-78.

Johnson, Eithne, “Loving Yourself: The Specular Scene in Sexual Self-Help Advice for Women.” Collective Visible Evidence. Eds. Jane Gaines and Michael Renov. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1999. 216-240.

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Warren, Shilyh. “By, For, and About: The ‘Real’ Problem in the Feminist Film Movement.” Mediascape: UCLA’s Journal for Cinema and Media Studies (Fall 08). Online at: http://www.tft.ucla.edu/mediascape/Fall08_Warren.html

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Williams, Linda. “Feminist Film Theory: Mildred Pierce and the Second World War.” Female Spectators: Looking at Film and Television. London; New York: Verso, 1989.

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