A project celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and recognizing unheralded accomplishments of American women was presented at the Uintah County Library last week.
The Library hosted Charlotte Mangin, creator of Unladylike 2020 and Neylan McBaine CEO of Better Days 2020 on April 23. Unladylike 2020 is a series of mini-documentaries about 26 unsung heroines from across the nation. Two of the women selected have Utah connections.
The project aims to recognize the unknown women of the past and to inspire the women of today.
“The main goal is to help shift the narrative around the role of women in shaping U.S. history at the turn of the twentieth century, but I also want to honor the centennial of women’s suffrage next year in a more inclusive way,” Mangin said.
Those who attended the event at the Uintah County Library had the opportunity to view a trailer for the Unladylike 2020 project. They were also shown a screening of the pilot episode of Unladylike 2020, a short film about Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female pilot. The film series will include original animation as well as interviews with historians and accomplished women who follow in the footsteps of Coleman and other historical figures.
“As a filmmaker, I want to push the boundaries of how historical films are usually put together and really help make history come to life in a new way,” said Mangin. “It’s not the typical PBS approach to the screen.”
After viewing the pilot episode of the film series, Mangin gave a detailed presentation on the two Utah women who will be featured in the series, Martha Hughes Cannon and Zitkala-Sa, (also known as Gertrude Bonnin), both deceased.
Hughes Cannon was a physician, politician and a polygamous wife in Salt Lake City after immigrating west to settle in the Utah Territory. According to Wikipedia, she was the fourth of six wives of Angus M. Cannon, a prominent leader during the anti-polygamy campaign. She exiled herself to Europe so she would not have to testify against her husband in court. When she returned she worked as a doctor and later ran against her husband for the Utah Senate. She won and became the first female state senator in the U.S. She passed away in 1932.
Zitkala-Sa was born on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. She became an author and tribal activist, spending part of her life on the Uintah-Ouray Reservation after marrying Captain Raymond Talefase Bonnin, who was stationed there.
She received her education at schools in Indiana and Pennsylvania. She was a writer and her articles were published in Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Monthly magazines at around the turn of the century. She also wrote songs and poetry and collaborated with a music professor from Brigham Young University on the Sun Dance Opera. Her work was collected and published posthumously in 2001 as Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems and the Sun Dance Opera, edited by P. Jane Hafen.
Zitkala-Sa passed away in 1938.
Mangin said her goal is to bring these stories and those of other female heroines in American history to the spotlight.
Attendees also had the opportunity to direct questions to a panel consisting of former Vernal Mayor Sonja Norton, historian Jane Hafen, and historical preservationist Cheryl Lone Bear.
“What I want first of all is for girls and women to understand that anything is possible if you have the passion and put your mind to it,” Mangin said. “I grew up, frankly, always being told to be a lady. You know, make sure to cross your legs, don’t climb that tree, wait, watch out, stop, and so I think that it’s taken me my whole life to break out of that mold and realize why do I have to conform to these expectations and I can be a lady and yet think outside the box and push the status quo.”
The Unladylike 2020 project will be released next year in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States.
For more information on the project, visit unladylike2020.com or look for them on social media with the handle unladylike2020.