In the introduction to his essential and illuminating study The Silent Feminists: America’s First Women Directors, film historian Anthony Slide remarks that during the early days of cinema, “not only were women making films, but contemporary observers were making little of the fact. It was taken for granted that women might direct as often and as well as their male counterparts, and there was no reason to belabor this truth.” In the intervening decades, much of the legacy of women directors in the silent era has been lost or forgotten — films no longer exist and filmmakers’ lives and careers are ambiguous at best. How to reverse this process with so little evidence, and so few films? The release of Ruth Ann Baldwin’s 49-17 on DVD, her second feature film as director from 1917 – and the first known Western to be directed by a woman – was certainly a big step forward towards documenting this history and making it available to the public.
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