Get Inspired as a Donor and Activist by Unladylike2020

A question I ask myself and others: how do you get inspired to keep doing this work? How do you get charged up to talk about the value of feminist strategies for giving when oftentimes, philanthropy gives feminism the radio silence treatment? One way is through art.

Bessie Coleman (1892-1926), the first African American female aviator. (Artwork by Amelie Chabannes)

A powerful new infusion of art is coming out this year. It’s called Unladylike2020, and it’s a film series celebrating women trailblazers. I was fortunate enough to see a preview of the first film in the series here in Providence last year, and got a glimpse of how the series combines original artwork, animation, rare archival footage, and interviews with family members, historians, and experts who discuss how these women shaped our world. PBS’s American Masters series will be participating in the initiative with three projects: 

  • Unladylike2020, a multimedia series which features pioneering, diverse and little-known American heroines from the turn of the 20th century and looks at how their work resonates today. The series will consist of one hour-long documentary for broadcast and 26 short films.
  • The Pieces I Am, a new documentary on the Nobel Prize-winning author, Toni Morrison
  • Mae West: Dirty Blonde!, a film on the entertainment legend who “climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong” 

Unladylike2020 is produced and directed by Charlotte Mangin, who launched the initiative in 2017 as a way to pay tribute to women leaders who have gone unrecognized for their significant contributions. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Mangin was born in Paris and is a native French speaker who was educated at Amherst College and Harvard University. Her prior works include Class of 2006, a film about women’s rights in Morocco, which won an International Documentary Award. Mangin also served as Series Producer for America By the Numbers, a PBS series focused on underreported stories. 

The first short in the series is about aviator Bessie Coleman and will be unveiled in the first week of March. The 26 short films will then be released weekly, ending on Women’s Equality Day, the 100th anniversary of the day when the 19th Amendment became law in 1920. The TV premiere of the hour-long segment will be in July.

Another added bonus (listen up all you parents and teenagers out there!): Unladylike2020 will also create a grades 6-12 U.S. history curriculum developed and distributed by PBS LearningMedia, with the potential to reach over 1.6 million educators across the country.

Learn more about the upcoming American Masters‘ celebration of women trailblazers here. Visit to learn more about the project.


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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