We tend to think of Hollywood as the original boys’ club.
Every few months there’s a new flurry of discussion about how we need to get more female voices in movies, how women should be paid as much as their male co stars (in all industries, btw, we’re just talking about movies right now 🙂 ), and to what extent some innocent, hardworking Twitter egg’s life is ruined by having to witness stinky girls in his favourite franchise.
And it’s easy to imagine it was always so.
Because there’s this pervasive idea around that filmmaking is somehow a dude’s game and it always was. Even when there is the odd successful female driven film, the narrative seems to be “who knew?!” But at the dawn of Hollywood, the ladies were ruling in numbers we can only dream of today.
Within five years the feminine influence will be fully fifty-fifty in Studio Land.
–Ladies Home Journal, 1920
For the first decade or two of the film industry, women were a dominant force both in front of and behind the camera.
Female stars could expect top billing, had control over who directed and wrote for them, and were paid as much — and often more — than their male counterparts. The first star to sign a million dollar contract was a woman. The first studio head was a woman. The highest paid screenwriter between 1915 and 1935 was a woman.
The fair sex is represented [in Hollywood] as in no other calling to which women have harkened in the early years of the twentieth century.
– Motion Picture Classic in 1915.