Lizzie has been awarded a major grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to lead a project about the life and work of one of the earliest women documentary makers in the UK – Jill Craigie (1911 – 1999). Craigie’s career as a film-maker and suffrage historian, has long been eclipsed in public memory by her role as the wife of former Labour leader, Michael Foot.
The project will explore what her life history reveals about the social and industrial factors which constrain and sometimes, enable, women’s involvement in film production and how her career might interrogate existing histories of British documentary.
Craigie was the director of innovative documentaries during and after World War Two which presented a woman’s perspective which explored how a new society might be built in the wake of the destruction, including Out of Chaos (1944) (the first arts documentary showing live arts at work including Henry Moore), The Way We Live (1947) (on the reconstruction of Plymouth with novel urban planning) and To Be A Woman (1951) (a remarkably progressive film on equal pay).
Craigie’s career as a film maker effectively stalled through the 1950s although she moved into screenwriting and remained active as a journalist. We will examine the opportunities and obstacles which she encountered in pursuing her ambitions and exploring what her career reveals about the challenges many women then and since have faced in the film industry.
We will chart how, although her production activity was fragmented, her commitment to her political ideals did not and was pursued in her lifelong interest in the women’s suffrage movement.
We will examine how Craigie mediated the ‘first wave’ of feminism to understand the politics of her own time just as we envisage this project informing a revision of documentary film histories to encompass women’s contribution.
Key outputs will include an experimental film biography, directed by Thynne and a book, co-authored by Yvonne Tasker (UEA) and Sadie Wearing (LSE).