Women in Film on Public Broadcasting: Midge McKenzie

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) welcomes guest author Veronica Mendez, a duel intern with AAPB and Women in Film and Video New England. Stay tuned for a short series of essays that feature public broadcasting materials covering topics related to women in the film industry. Veronica is currently pursuing a bachelor’s in Media and Film from Suffolk University with an emphasis on video editing.

Midge McKenzie

Interning with Women in Film and Video New England (WIFVNE) has provided access to a strong network of women filmmakers. This network not only represents a collective experience of women in the film industry, but their experience spans across generations and notable accomplishments. This series will focus on highlighting the herstory of women in the film industry through the preserved materials of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB).

This week I came across an interview with one of WIFVNE’s founders, Midge Mackenzie. Midge is known for her documentary Women Talking, with interviews of Kate Millett, Betty Friedan, and other leading figures in the US women’s liberation movement. She was interviewed in 1975 by WNED in Buffalo, NY for their Woman series, a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women. In this episode, Midge discusses her show Shoulder to Shoulder (1974), a project about the time of the suffragettes. Her works chronicles the women’s struggles for suffrage and their lives.

This interview is interesting because Midge not only expresses her approach to film making, but through that process, she becomes an extremely knowledgeable resource on the topic. Her creativity is fueled by the stories and experiences of her subjects, and expressing the wrongs committed against the suffragettes. I look forward to watching her series and see how she adapted these real life stories and people into fiction. Midge Mackenzie’s passion for the subject can be easily seen by the amount of years and work she put into gaining all the information necessary to produce the series, books, and plays.

Midge Mackenzie is remembered as a feminist and activist who used her works to highlight women experiences. Her television series, plays, and books named Shoulder to Shoulder is a perfect illustration of this. Yet, this was not the only feminist work Mackenzie took on. Mackenzie for years interviewed the last remaining suffragettes and captured their stories so they would not be lost to time. Last semester, I had a history class about Women in Europe in the 20th century. We got to read books, firsthand accounts, and watch movies about the suffragettes. I learned about stories of bravery, purpose, and sacrifice to leave a legacy of freedoms to women. Without these stories it is easy to forget why all these rights and freedoms are so important. And, they also give a purpose to those who fight for equality today. Women like Midge Mackenzie make sure you don’t forget these stories by making them into shows that can both teach and entertain. 

Works by women that are about women’s stories are so powerful, because they understand the position the subject was in. It is encouraging that these stories can still be experienced, even if it is indirectly. Midge Mackenzie’s interview is powerful and entertaining. She discusses her creative journey and also some stories about the Suffragettes she met.The show aired on British Broadcasting Channel (BBC) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and Midge would later go on to write a book by the same name to expand on the subject. I’m glad that her thoughts about this project are preserved for modern audiences through Women and that her accomplishments weren’t lost to time.

Watch the rest of her stories and experiences at: https://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_81-881jx33t

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