I was getting ready to write about film events focused on women’s rights this month when the news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuses erupted. It was ironic and sad to be pondering where women are today and to feel like we just aren’t that far along. “The National Women’s Conference: Taking 1977 into the 21st Century” (ssl.uh.edu/class/mcgovern/national-women-conference/) will be a gathering of those interested in women’s rights at the University of Houston on November 6 and 7. Organized in honor of the only federally funded National Women’s Conference in U.S. history, this free event will bring together former participants and scholars, including Gloria Steinem and Sissy Farenthold.
“Who hasn’t been sexually harassed?!,” Cynthia Salzman Mondell of Dallas-based nonprofit Media Projects, Inc. (www.mediaprojects.org) told me after I asked her about Weinstein. She’s been making award-winning documentary films with her husband Allen Mondell for 40 years and yet still gets degrading remarks from male colleagues. Because of this, Cynthia is passionate about telling women’s stories – and helping other women in the field. She and Allen will be screening their documentary Sisters of ‘77 at the UH conference on Tuesday, November 7, at 3:45pm. It’s a film capturing the historic event that was attended by 20,000 people and which had the goal of ending discrimination against women and promoting their equal rights. Salzman Mondell participated in the original conference and was also one of the many relay runners who helped carry a torch to Houston from Seneca Falls, New York – the site of the first U.S. women’s rights convention in 1848. Sisters of ’77 features archival footage as well as modern-day interviews with attendees such as Barbara Jordan and Ann Richards.
The Houston Women’s March has organized community events to complement the conference on the weekend prior. On Friday, November 3, they are presenting “O Sister, Where Art Thou?” – an evening spotlighting women in film which will include a panel discussion with locals such as Anita Long, Cressandra Thibodeaux and Trish Rigdon. The details were still being finalized at press time; check www.HoustonWomensMarch.org for updates.
The ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment was a hot topic at the National Women’s Conference in 1977. I imagine if it had passed back then, Harvey Weinstein’s despicable behavior would have ended up on the cutting floor.
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