The Women Who Built Hollywood: 12 Trailblazers in Front of and Behind the Camera

Calkins Creek. May 2023. 208p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781662680106.
Gr 5-8–An illuminating collective biography that goes behind the scenes to shed light on 12 groundbreaking women who made their mark on film and early cinema. Rubin covers familiar names from Old Hollywood, such as Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Anna May Wong, and Hattie McDaniel. Their biographies present them as actresses, but also as studio heads, producers, directors, and activists. She puts forward Marion Wong, a Chinese American screenwriter, director, and actress; Dorothy Arzner, a queer director who was the first woman inducted into the Director’s Guild; and Margaret Booth, the first person to be given the title of film editor. The writing is succinct and accessible and will inspire readers to do more research. This book has multiple entry points and will interest fans of untold histories and film. Every profile is accompanied by multiple gorgeous, black-and-white archival photos. Each entry opens with a quotation from the subject and is about 10–16 pages. Well-researched, the work is heavily sourced with extensive notes, bibliography, and index. Rubin takes extra care to preface the book with a note on the derogatory terms used during the time period. In her author’s note at the conclusion of the volume, she explains her thought process in selecting the different women. While she makes an effort to include several people of color and queer artists, there is a lack of Latinx and Indigenous representation.
VERDICT A fascinating and browsable collective biography that will inspire further research. Recommended for women’s and film history studies.

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