Documentaries About Feminism and Women’s History To Watch in 2020

The year 2020 marks the centenary of the 19th amendment. This constitutional amendment, passed in 1920, gave women in the United States the right to vote. For decades, suffragists had fought for this right. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the women’s rights movement officially launched in 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, two women who were also abolitionists but were marginalized in anti-slavery spaces because of sexism. This inspired them to organize around the issue of women’s rights.

Stanton and other suffragists were by no means perfect, and racism  was present  in the mainstream suffrage movement that cannot be ignored. Many black women created their own suffrage groups, and their contributions are too often overlooked. For all the importance of this anniversary, the 19th amendment did not erase the discrimination that black women faced at the voting polls. It took the passage of The Voting Rights Act of 1965 to eliminate things like poll taxes and literacy tests that prevented so many African Americans from voting.

Since the birth of the women’s rights movement, women have made important strides, but the struggle for liberation continues. I’ve compiled a list of documentaries that focus on the achievements of feminism as a whole and the important work done by individual women through activism and the arts. I wanted to emphasize the diversity of the female experience and how women of different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds have made vital contributions to feminism and to the world.

All these documentaries are available to stream in the United States. Beside each film, in parentheses, you’ll see where you can watch the film. I’ve focused on accessible streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. And I’ve included free sites like Tubi TV and PBS. I hope this list serves as a helpful resource and inspires others to explore the rich, complicated, and fascinating history of feminism. I’ve grouped the films into distinct categories, beginning with First Wave feminism, and I will add films as I discover them.

First Wave

Not For Ourselves Alone: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (Amazon Prime)

Courage in Corsets (PBS)

Women on the March (National Film Board of Canada)

The Story of Women and Power (Amazon Prime)

A History of Women’s Achievement in America (Amazon Prime)

American Experience: The Vote (Part 1 and Part 2) (PBS)

Second Wave

Rise Up: Songs of the Women’s Movement (PBS Passport)

Feminists: What Were They Thinking? (Netflix)

We’ll Meet Again: The Fight For Women’s Rights (PBS Passport)

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (Amazon Prime)

Gloria: In Her Own Words (HBO)

Some American Feminists (National Film Board of Canada)

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Writers

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind ‘Little Women’ (PBS and Amazon Prime)

Paris Was a Woman (Tubi TV)

Bronte Country: The Life and Times of Three Famous Sisters (Tubi TV)

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin (PBS Passport)

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Netflix)

Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/ Feeling Heart (PBS Passport)

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Hulu)

Margaret Atwood: Once in August (National Film Board of Canada)

Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power (Hulu)

Voices & Visions: Elizabeth Bishop

Voices & Visions: Emily Dickinson

Voices & Visions: Marianne Moore

Voices & Visions: Sylvia Plath

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (Netflix)

American Experience: Rachel Carson (Amazon Prime)

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Directors

The Lost Garden: The Life and Cinema of Alice Guy-Blache (National Film Board of Canada)

Artists

Eva Hesse (PBS Passport)

Our City Dreams (Tubi TV)

Women Art Revolution (Tubi TV)

What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann (Tubi TV)

Klee Wyck (National Film Board of Canada)

Bone Wind Fire (National Film Board of Canada)

Kusama: Infinity (Hulu)

Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti (YouTube)

Packed in a Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson (Tubi TV)

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Activism and Politics

The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen (Ovid)

Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed (Ovid and Amazon Prime)

I Am Somebody (YouTube)

Rigoberta Menchu: Daughter of the Maya (Tubi TV)

Medicine Woman (PBS)

American Experience: Emma Goldman (PBS)

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1985

Jane Fonda in Five Acts (Hulu and HBO)

Dolores (PBS Passport)

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (Tubi TV)

Anita (Tubi TV)

RBG (Hulu)

Knock Down the House (Netflix)

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Musicians

Holly Near: Singing For Our Lives (PBS Passport)

The Girls in the Band (Tubi TV)

What Happened Miss Simone? (Netflix)

Janis: Little Girl Blue (Amazon Prime)

Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl (PBS Passport)

Science and Technology

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Netflix and PBS Passport)

 

Spirituality

Goddess Remembered (National Film Board of Canada)

The Burning Times (National Film Board of Canada)

Witches: A Century of Murder (Netflix)

 

Sports

American Masters: Billie Jean King (Amazon Prime)

American Masters: Althea (Amazon Prime)