The Center for Digital Research and Scholarship launches the Women Film Pioneers Project

The Women Film Pioneers Project officially launches their website and research as part of To Save and Project, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) International Festival of Film Preservation, with two programs on October 19 and 21, 2013: Women Daredevils of the Silent Era andGirl Spies and Irish Colleens. For ticket information, visit the MoMA website.

Dr. Jane Gaines, Professor of Film at Columbia University and editor of the website along with Dr. Radha Vatsal and Dr. Monica Dall’Asta,said of the project launch: "With the launch of the Women Film Pioneers Project, we prove definitively that there were more women working in the silent-era film industries than at any time since. As the site grows, it will further reveal that women got in on the ground floor wherever there were attempts to start national film ventures--in places we might least suspect like Chile, Australia, and Egypt. In the U.S., there were immigrant women like Chinese-American Marion E. Wong and Mexican-American Beatriz Michelena. Some of the films these women made exist in archives all over the world. Columbia Libraries/Information Services has produced the research tool of the future to help researchers worldwide excavate these careers.”

CDRS developed the new website, which enables the public to freely browse individual profiles of women film pioneers by name, country, or occupation. Profiles of these women pioneers were contributed to the project from authors around the world. The site also features introductory overview essays and a rich resources section, the latter structured to stimulate further scholarly research and facilitate use of internet sources.

“The launch of the Women Film Pioneers Project is a triumph for students, researchers, professors, the film industry, and the public. It has been a pleasure for us to partner with Jane Gaines, her students, and her film studies colleagues, with our colleagues at Columbia Libraries/Information Services, and with others in the School of Arts over the past few years to produce a tremendously rich, freely accessible, online scholarly resource that challenges head-on the assumption that the film industry has from its first days been male-dominated. The Women Film Pioneers Project dispels that notion,” commented CDRS Director Rebecca Kennison.

Throughout the history of the project, student contribution has been extensive. Students from Columbia University and Barnard College helped to research pioneers and films, fact-check and edit, and discover, scan, and enter still images into the database. In more recent years, students involved in the WFPP have been engaged with finalizing the content, from formatting images and text to organizing and managing streamed media and links.

Dr. Kathryn Hearst, Professor of History at Sarah Lawrence College and WFPP scholarly consultant, said: "The WFPP website stands as a vital tool for current and future scholars of film and history. The beauty of its design allows for continuous expansion as awareness of women filmmakers grows globally.” 

Nancy Friedland, Librarian for Butler Media, Film Studies and Performing Arts at Columbia, added, "The Women Film Pioneers Project, first imagined as a traditional print encyclopedia, is a dynamic online resource bringing authoritative information to the world. The scope is extensive, offering new discoveries about these bold and creative women who worked in the early years of  cinema. This work moves forward the effort to end their silent history."


The Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) works to increase the utility and impact of research produced at Columbia by creating, adapting, implementing, supporting, and sustaining innovative digital tools and publishing platforms for content delivery, discovery, analysis, data curation, and preservation. The Center engages in extensive outreach, education, and advocacy to ensure that the scholarly work produced at Columbia University has a global reach and accelerates the pace of research across disciplines. CDRS is one of six entities that comprise the Digital Programs and Technology Services branch of Columbia University Libraries/Information Services.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 12 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. CUL/IS employs more than 450 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources:

Columbia University School of the Arts awards the Master of Fine Arts degree in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts and Writing and the Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. The School is a thriving, diverse community of artists from around the world with talent, vision and commitment. The faculty is composed of acclaimed and internationally renowned artists, film and theatre directors, writers of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, playwrights, producers, critics and scholars. Every year the School of the Arts presents exciting and innovative programs for the public including performances, exhibitions, screenings, symposia, a film festival, and numerous lectures, readings, panel discussions and talks with artists, writers, critics and scholars. For more information, visit