Women’s Voices: Gender Gap (1984)

This documentary explores the growing difference in the voting patterns of men and women (the gender gap) that could no longer be denied by the mid-1980’s. These issues include equal pay, environmental justice, subsidized childcare, job creation, and healthcare became wedge issues in Ronald Reagan’s America as more and more women joined the workforce.

The film interweaves testimony by a diverse group of women discussing the issues that matter to them with satirical animated scenes by the cartoonist Nicole Hollander, creator of the comic strip Sylvia. The unique value of this film comes at many different levels. The film tackles the subject of women’s voter participation and equal rights with both humor and depth. The historic value of this film is twofold. As a snapshot of women’s issues leading up to a national election, it is priceless. The producers created a “get out the vote” piece in order to mobilize women voters before the 1984 election, when Ronald Reagan was running against former vice president Walter Mondale. The film was featured at the 1984 Democratic National Convention and screened at the National Convention of the Organization of Women that same year.

The film was a product of the venerable Chicago filmmaking collective, Kartemquin Films, the now 45-year-old institution whose mission is to make socially conscientious documentaries that inspire change in society. Women’s Voices is the result of a collective filmmaking process at a time when women were underrepresented in film production, and were rarely considered producers or directors.

This film shows the rare collaboration between feminist documentary producers and the renown cartoonist, Nicole Hollander. Director and Co-Producer, Jenny Rohrer came to Kartemquin Films while a student at Chicago’s Columbia College, co-producing one of Kartemquin’s most influential feminist documentary films, The Chicago Maternity Center Story (1976). After working with Kartemquin collective for several years on such films as Golub, The Last Pullman Car, and Community Works TV, Rohrer founded her own production company, Rohrer Film & Video in 1991. In total, Rohrer has 37 years experience producing award-winning, nationally-broadcast documentary films for public television, not-for-profits and advocacy organizations. A specialist in internal communications as well as recruitment and outreach, her clients include League of Women Voters, People for the American Way, The National Safe Kids Campaign, the Service Employees International Union, the AFL-CIO and the American Physical Therapy Association.

Co-Producer Nancy Meyer has a 30-year history of involvement in the social justice philanthropy community with a special focus on women and girls. Ms Meyer is a Trustee of the Irving Harris Foundation, participates in the Democracy Funding Circle of the Ms. Foundation for Women, and supports a number of women’s groups, including the Astraea Foundation, the National Council for Research on Women, and the Women’s Funding Network.

Associate Producer Barbara Tuss was introduced to the world of independent documentaries through her friends Julia Reichert and Jim Klein. After working with the wonderful team at Kartemquin on Women’s Voices: The Gender Gap Movie, Barbara moved to Los Angeles where she had a career as a script supervisor on over forty feature films. Her credits include Pleasantville, Mumford, Road Trip, Grosse Pointe Blank, Stir of Echoes, Safe, and Prefontaine. In 2003 Barbara earned a Masters Degree in early childhood special education. She now lives in Oakland, California and works with birth to three-year old children with special needs and their families. Associate Producer Bettylu Saltzman is a longtime political activist and prominent Democrat in Chicago. She was instrumental in the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, having been one of his earliest supporters, dating back to their mutual involvement in a voter registration drive, Project Vote, in 1992. She is currently a board member for Business and Professional People for the Public Interest.

Cartoonist Nicole Hollander is the creator of the syndicated cartoon strip Sylvia. Her character has appeared in two musicals, 20 books and now in a daily blog: BadGirlchats.com. Nicole’s latest book is a collection with commentary of the political cartoons done over a 35-year period: The Sylvia Chronicles: 30 years of Graphic Misbehavior from Reagan to Obama. Her association with Kartemquin grew out of her admiration for their documentary work: The Chicago Maternity Center, Now We Live on Clifton and many others. She drew the cartoons and wrote the dialogue for the Sylvia episodes contained within Women’s Voices: the Gender Gap Movie… the film that was to stop Reagan in his tracks. Alas, that battle was not won, but the pleasure of her long association with Kartemquin was its own reward.