PBS series honors barrier-breaking women

A preview of the Public Broadcasting Service documentary series "Unladylike 2020" premiered at the Utah Theatre on Wednesday as part of the local "Celebration of a Century, 1920 to 2020" observance of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

LOGAN – The Cache Valley celebration of Women’s Equity Day on Wednesday included the local premiere at the Utah Theatre of the “Unladylike 2020” film series produced by the Public Broadcasting System.

The PBS documentary series — composed of 26 episodes produced, written and directed by Sandra Rattley — highlighted women who successfully broke gender-based social and political barriers in America.

The preview of six of the series’ 26 episodes at the Utah Theatre was the climax of the “Celebration of the Century, 1920 to 2020” event on Wednesday. That date was the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women’s suffrage nationwide. The local screening for a small, socially distanced audience followed earlier speeches and a media display on the steps of Cache County’s Historic Courthouse.

The PBS series was created in the documentary style popularized by filmmaker Ken Burns, but with innovative twists.

Like Burns’ best-known documentaries on the Civil War and the American pastime of baseball, Rattley’s “Unladylike 2020” brings the stories of pioneering American women to life using historic still photographs, rare archival film footage and interviews with historians and modern women reflecting on their influence.

But the documentary series is visually enhanced with colorful original artwork and animation. Those enhancements by visual artist Amelie Chabannes give the video episodes a vividly modern, almost impressionistic flavor.

The episodes of “Unladylike 2020” that premiered at the Utah Theatre on Wednesday highlighted the accomplishments of Utah State Sen. Martha Hughes Cannon; Zitkala Sa, a Native American activist; Bessie Coleman, an early 20th Century female aviator; Ynes Mexia, a noted botanist; Anna May Wong, a trendsetting actress and fashion icon; and Gertrude Bentley, a gender-bending entertainer.

Although “Unladylike 2020” was completed long before our current social unrest began with the resurgence of Black Lives Matter activism, the series is especially appropriate now since many of its subjects are women of color.

Sandra Rattley, the producer, writer and director of “Unladylike 2020,” describes herself as a behavior change communications specialist.

She is a former vice president of cultural programming at National Public Radio, where she managed the network’s public information, marketing, community outreach and audience research efforts.

Rattley was previously the executive producer of award-winning documentary projects including “Wade in the Water,” an exploration of African-American sacred music, and “Making the Music,” hosted by Wynton Marsalis. On a lighter note, she also created the hit NPR comedy quiz show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”

The entire 26 episodes of “Unladylike 2020” can be accessed online at http://unladylike2020.com.

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