New documentary series to focus on women in Philadelphia history

One of the women who will be profiled in Women of Philadelphia: A Documentary, Carolyn Davenport Moore was a local civil rights leader who worked from the 1940s through the 1960s.
One of the women who will be profiled in Women of Philadelphia: A Documentary, Carolyn Davenport Moore was a local civil rights leader who worked from the 1940s through the 1960s. (Courtesy of Richard Moore)
Posted: February 26, 2014

On Tuesday, the documentary production company founded by Philadelphia politician Sam Katz will launch its second major project, Women of Philadelphia: A Documentary, a six-episode TV series created by Nancy Moses, a former executive director of the Philadelphia History Museum.

Katz said on Monday that the series will tell the story of the women who have helped shape the city since its early days in the 17th century. The ambitious $1.4 million project, which will have a robust Web presence including more than two dozen webisodes, will begin shooting in June. A teaser trailer and further information have been posted on the series website, www.womenofphilly.com.

History Making Productions is "a community-wide history initiative," said Katz, whose company's first production, Philadelphia: The Great Experiment, a 14-episode history of the city, currently airs on 6ABC (WPVI-TV).

" The Great Experiment is like a survey course for freshman, and [ Women of Philadelphia] . . . is the first advance course we are doing off it," Katz said in a joint phone interview with Moses and his daughter, series producer Lauren Katz.

A first taste of the series, a Web episode about Quaker abolitionist and women's rights activist Lucretia Mott, is already in production and will be posted next month, Moses said, to coincide with Women's History Month.

While Mott would be well known to anyone interested in 19th-century American history, many of the women profiled in Women of Philadelphia have been relegated to obscurity, Moses said.

"We will uncover a history that's largely untold . . . and long overdue," said Moses, whose books include Lost in the Museum: Hidden Treasures and the Stories They Tell. "Beyond Betsy Ross, there isn't a lot of knowledge out there about the city's women."

Historians for the most part have excluded women, Moses said. "All the histories have been written by men, and they seem to focus on areas like power and politics, where women for many generations didn't leave a major mark." But women have had great impact in "other areas such as social service, education and community service."

Lauren Katz said that the series would not only focus on women but also be researched and written by female scholars - and made by women. "One of the most unique aspects of the project is that women will also be the producers, directors, cinematographers, and editors," she said.

A corporate lawyer who joined History Making Productions last year, Lauren Katz said Women of Philadelphia would be a work very much of living history. Each episode will be devoted to a theme - including power, crime, creativity, education, and wellness - that resonates with contemporary women and their concerns.

"We want to bring history forward. We spoke with several focus groups," she said, "and asked them about their values, their concerns, their experience of living in Philadelphia as women, and what they looked for in documentary television."

Each episode, she said, will be framed with a contemporary problem and will explore "how women over the years were affected by it, or contributed to solving the problem."

Katz said one concern kept popping up, especially in discussions with younger women and teenage girls. "One of the issues that seems very important for them is how to find images of women who are not movie stars or models, women whose image isn't made because they were notorious," she said.

Katz said she hopes the series will help viewers discover strong role models in the history of their own city.

Women of Philadelphia will be funded from a variety of philanthropic sources, said Sam Katz, including donations from major corporations, women's organizations, heritage and museum societies, and individuals. So far, $650,000 has been raised, he said, with help from Independence Blue Cross, inspirational speaker and business book author Cathy Greenberg, and the Forum of Executive Women.


tirdad@phillynews.com

215-854-2736

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